A more recent version of these Euthanasia notes – written by Oxford students – is available here.
The following is a more accessble plain text extract of the PDF sample above, taken from our Medical Law Notes. Due to the challenges of extracting text from PDFs, it will have odd formatting:
Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide Act 1961
Suicide/attempted suicide = not an offence
Aiding, abetting, counselling & procuring suicide = offence
Not necessary to prosecute every case of assisted suicide Suicide as a "liberty right" (i) Claim - signifies entitlement (activity regarded as proper to expect) (ii) Liberty - activity regarded as permissible but not approved of o R (Purdy) v DPP - P, sufferer of multiple sclerosis, challenged lack of clear DPP guidance re prosecution of those assisting suicide by travelling to Switzerland as breach of her & her husband's HR; held: decisions to seek assisted suicide falls within Art 8(1), interference w/which could be justified under Art 8(2), but it had to be justified by "law" which in turn required obligation to be sufficiently clear.
= Greasley: it wasn't legally necessary for court to order DPP to clarify his long standing policy (there was legal elbow room available) & such clarification isn't progressive development b/c previous practice of wilful blindness to certain cases, whilst not clarifying policy to such effect, was most satisfactory approach Right to Die
Cory J in Rodriguez v AG of British Columbia - dying is an integral part of living and right to die w/dignity should be as protected as any other aspect of right to life. state prohibition forcing painful, dreadful death on rational but incapacitated terminally ill is an affront to human dignity o Pretty v UK - choosing manner of death could be included as an aspect of right to life but interests of state &
society will justify interference w/it.
= Grayling: right to life = right to a minimally decent life, so if P's life is intolerable, their right to life may entitle them to die
= Ford: right to die embodies a critical paradox of personhood - criteria of personhood include consciousness, self awareness, ability to engage w/others. Acc to personhood theory, anyone possessing these qualities is unequivocally a person but then it is argued they have a right to die. The only way theory succeeds is by accepting a version of personhood where value is a spectrum, so that one P is less of a person than another - this is dangerous jurisprudence
= Harris: there's no personhood paradox b/c criteria is a set of capacities which make it possible for P to value own existence. The wrong of ending life is deprivation of something he values. Once he doesn't value own existence, he can't be wronged by being deprived of it. It's not life per se that's being valued but existence of particular sort. Persons are creatures whose value of existence is constituted by interests & preferences, so to think of that value as simply one of maintaining organic life is to misunderstand the meaning of value of life. Ultimate value isn't inalienable either - Ps are entitled to have it respected but aren't doomed to have it respected and can indeed waive it Duty to Die
Hardwig - people may be under duty to die. They must accept that towards the end of their lives, once seriously ill, they become a burden to family and friends, which can be intolerable and have devastating consequences
Baroness Warnock - if you are determined, you're wasting people's lives, your family lives and resources of NHS
In any case, a moral obligation only!!
Doctrine of Double Effect
Doc gives P drugs to kill him & death results = murder
Doc administers pain relieving drugs in acc w/med practice & death results incidentally = no offence
= Me: a silly & subjective distinction - doc must make sure he doesn't have intent of killing all the way through?
Entirely subjective. Euthanasia disguised?
o R v Adams - if P's health couldn't be restored, doc's entitled to do all proper & necessary to relieve pain, even if it incidentally shortens P's life Persistent Vegetative State
Legal Position (i) Switching off life support = omission = no breach of duty by the doc (passive euthanaisia) (ii) Active euthanasia = a crime o NHS Trust A v M - 2 Ps in PVS w/v. small chance of recovery, suffered particular difficulties in accepting artificial nutrition/hydration, decl. for withdrawing it granted by court. Must establish: a. Irreversibility of PVS w/high certainty b. Continuation of treatment isn't in P's best interests Art 2 ECHR - negative obl. on state to refrain from taking life intentionally ? "deprivation of life" requires act w/intent, not an omission. Also, positive obl. on state to provide life sustaining treatment where it's in P's best interests, not where it's futile.
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