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For Against Euthanasia Notes

BCL Law Notes > Medical Law and Ethics Notes

This is an extract of our For Against Euthanasia document, which we sell as part of our Medical Law and Ethics Notes collection written by the top tier of University Of Oxford students.

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FOR/AGAINST EUTHANASIA & ASSISTED SUICIDE

OPENING

1. Price (2009) - 18,000 patients in Britain medically assisted to die a year

2. Seale (2006)
- 63% deaths in England involved an 'end of life decision' by a medicalpractitioner.

32.8% involves a medical professional intervening to alleviate pain or-undesirable symptoms with potentially life-shortening effect

30.3% were cases where potentially life-saving treatment was not given

0.16% euthanasia with patients request and

0.33% euthanasia without the patient's consent

CURRENT LAW

1. ASSISTED SUICIDE = ILLEGAL a) S.2(1) Suicide Act 1961 makes assisted suicide illegal. But, by virtue of section 2(4) no prosecution can be instituted without the consent of DPP

2. EUTHANASIA = MURDER a) R (Nicklinson) v MOJ [2013]
- CA confirmed that euthanasia (including voluntary euthanasia) was murder. The defence of necessity could never be extended to cover thesituation It's for Parliament to decide otherwise three cases brought before CA involving men seriously disabled condition,

the most famous being Tony Nicklinson, who had 'locked-in syndrome'
- Current law upholds Art 2 ECHR right to life

3. SUICIDE AND ATTEMPTED SUICIDE ARE LEGAL

DEFINITIONS a) These definitions from NHS Choices Online (2014) b) EUTHANASIA

1 I.

Huxtable says that there are a number of different definitions. Euthanasia translates to 'good death'. NHS Choices online says 'it is

II. the act of deliberately ending a person's life to relieve suffering'. It can be divided into three forms:
? Voluntary euthanasia - Behaviour which caused the patient'sdeath at the patient's request Non-voluntary euthanasia - Behaviour which causes euthanasia without the consent or objection of the patient(where they are unable to consent) Involuntary euthanasia - where a competent patient has not

expressly consented to die (Biggs just regards this as murder) c) ASSISTED SUICIDE I. This is the act of deliberately assisting or encouraging another person to commit suicide (or attempt it) d) SUICIDE AND ATTEMPTED SUICIDE ARE LEGAL

HOW IT WORKS IN REALITY

1. BMA (1996) - 22 our of 750 doctors have admitted to ending a patient's life

2. It goes on all the time ASSISTED DYING BILL

1. Lord Falconer's Bill will have second reading in HoL on 18 July 2014

2. YouGov poll found that 76% adults support the Bill

3. The Bill will I. provide safeguarded choice and control to terminally ill adults as to II. III.

how they die that terminally ill adults have explored all alternatives legalese assisted suicide for people who are not dying (ie. disabled

IV. people or older people) Legalise voluntary euthanasia where doctor administers life-ending medication. Under the Assisted Dying Bill the person choosing to end their life would take the final action to end their life, by taking prescribed life-ending medication

2 V.

The Bill only applies to those people with mental capacity both at the time of their request and at the time of their death

CRUELTY ARGUMENT

1. We put down animals as it's considered cruel to let them suffer with pain, why not extend this courtesy to humans? BUT

2. Bachelard - rejects this analogy on the basis that human fellowship and impact of death on others justifies distinguishing the deaths of humans and animals CONTRAST

3. Harris - he says that when humans lose those qualities which make them different from animals, such as consciousness and interactive abilities, why then are they still denied this right to die PLUS

UNDERMINES PALLIATIVE CARE a) palliative care is available for humans, unlike animals b) Magnusson - euthanasia would reduce this c) This is multidisciplinary medical care that's focused on relieving patients' pain, monitoring their spiritual care and being considerate for patients' family d) Moveland and Rae - pain can be managed to endurable levels and where it is utterly unbearable always sedation e) Zyic - palliative care is limited in The Netherlands, which may be linked to euthanasia being permissable

DOCTOR-PATIENT RELATIONSHIP

1. BMA (2009) - euthanasia may undermine doctors' healing role FOR EXAMPLE

3 2. Zeigler (2009) - in Switzerland, where assisted suicide is permitted in certain circumstances, doctors play a minor role - it's normally handled by private clinics

3. Price - fear amongst doctors in England that they will become agents of patients if it's legalized HOWEVER

4. R(Burke) v GMC - established that a patient can't demand that a doctor treat them in a way which is harmful - so doctor is not subordinate to patient (ie. consumerist relationship Morgan's four models)

5. Hoffenberg - where a doctor decides to end a patient's life, they are doing so not based on a moral decision, but out of an extension of their duty of care PRAGMATIC: AVOID ARTIFICIAL AND INCONSISTENT DISTINCTIONS IN THE LAW

1. Williams - present law on euthanasia is illogical and unsupportable based on the following

2. ACTS/OMISSIONS I. Omissions: a doctor has a duty to act unless the patient refuses consent or it's not in the patients best interests (Bland) (ie. omissions are fine if II.

in patient's best interest) This relates to causation, so omission doesn't cause death, the

III. underlying medical condition does BUT Jackson - it's an artificial distinction, more important is whether

IV. doctor thinks patient's life should be artificially prolonged James Rachels - 'The doctrine that says that a baby may be allowed to dehydrate and wither, but may not be given an injection that would end his life without suffering, seems so patently cruel as to require no

V. further refutation' Beauchamp and Childress - say that this concept is so confusing it is not useful as a practical guide

4

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