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Pretty v UK  2 FLR 45 House of Lords and the European Court of Human Rights Facts P suffered from motor neurone disease, a disease associated with progressive muscle weakness affecting the voluntary muscles of the body. Death usually occurred as a result of weakness of the breathing muscles, in association with weakness of the muscles controlling speaking and swallowing, leading to respiratory failure and pneumonia. No treatment was available to prevent the progression of the disease. P's life expectancy was poor. In order to avoid the extremely distressing and undignified final stages of the disease and to be able to control how and when she was to die, the applicant wanted her husband to assist her to commit suicide. Held Lord Bingham (HoL)
Is a right engaged under Art 2?
o The starting point must be the language of the article. The thrust of this is to reflect the sanctity which, particularly in western eyes, attaches to life.
? The article protects the right to life and prevents the deliberate taking of life save in very narrowly defined circumstances.
An article with that effect cannot be interpreted as conferring a right to die or to enlist the aid of another in bringing about one's own death o While right claimed being limited to covering assisted suicide, there is in logic no justification for drawing a line at this point.
? If Article 2 does confer a right to self-determination in relation to life and death, and if a person were so gravely disabled as to be unable to perform any act whatever to cause his or her own death,
it would necessarily follow in logic that such a person would have a right to be killed at the hands of a third party without giving any help to the third party
and the state would be in breach of the Convention if it were to interfere with the exercise of that right. o No such right can possibly be derived from an article having the object already defined
? Some rights can give an opposite conclusion - so Art 9 protects the right not to join an association
However, it cannot however be suggested that Articles 3, 4, 5 and 6 confer an implied right to do or experience the opposite of that which the articles guarantee. o Whatever the benefits which, in the view of many, attach to voluntary euthanasia, suicide, physician-assisted suicide and suicide assisted without the intervention of a physician,
? these are not benefits which derive protection from an article framed to protect the sanctity of life
Is a right engaged under Art 3 o Article 3 enshrines one of the fundamental values of democratic societies and its prohibition of the proscribed treatment is absolute
? Article 3 is, as I think complementary to Article 2 . As Article 2 requires states to respect and safeguard the lives of individuals within their jurisdiction, so Article 3 obliges them to respect the physical and human integrity of such individuals
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