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Applying the Law to difficult cases The administration of pain-relieving drugs
The general principles o If D gives P drugs knowing and in order to kill P, and death results, then this can be murder
Lord Goff: o It is not lawful for a doctor to administer a drug to his patient to bring about his death
? Even if that course of treatment is prompted by a humanitarian desire to end suffering, however great that might be. o How about where D gives P drugs knowing they will likely kill P, but with the intention to relieve P's pain, not to kill
Lord Goff o It is an established rule that a doctor may, when caring a for P who is dying from a terminal disease
? lawfully administer painkilling drugs despite that fact that he knows the incidental effect of that application will be to abbreviate the patient's life o Such a decision may properly be made as part of the care of the living patient and his best interests
? And on this basis, the treatment is lawful.
? R v Cox: D injected a lethal amount of potassium chloride in order to kill P who was suffering from intense pain. P had repeatedly asked D to kill him, and eventually D relented. The drug itself only shortened P's life, and otherwise had no analgesic value so could not be classed as pain relief.
Foster: He was only charged with attempted murder, which was a tactical move by the prosecution, o as juries will very often acquit in full murder prosecutions owing to the mandatory life sentence. Persistent vegetative state
Definition o PVS patients cannot be kept alive unaided and without the use of a life support machine
? However, they are not always completely immobile, and can retain some auditory or visual stimuli - although the amount depends on the degree suffered o They cannot eat or drink unaided, and while it can never be certain that the condition is irrecoverable
? Most will not recover and only stay alive until some natural disease gets them, or treatment is withdrawn.
The Law o Doctors must comply with any advance directives issued by the patient which state he does not want any life-sustaining treatment
? Or else the test is whether it is in the best interests of P to require the treatment to be offered
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