UK court upholds law against euthanasia

[JURIST] The UK Court of Appeals on Wednesday upheld a law against euthanasia. Tony Nicholson, now deceased, was the victim of a paralyzing stroke. Paul Lamb was severely paralyzed after a car accident. Both men challenged the UK's definition of murder, seeking medical assistance in committing suicide. In 2012 a UK High Court ruled [judgment, PDF] that the case could proceed to hearing [JURIST report]. In a unanimous ruling, the judges said the two men had "permanent and catastrophic physical disabilities" but said the issue of euthanasia "raises profoundly sensitive questions about the nature of our society." The judges reasoned that "Parliament represents the conscience of the nation" and said the court had no jurisdiction to challenge the legal ban on euthanasia.

The right to die [JURIST news archive] has been a contentious issue around the world. The only European countries that allow euthanasia are Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Switzerland. In 2011, India's high court ruled passive euthanasia was permitted [JURIST report] under certain circumstances, but rejected a petition for a mercy killing. In 2010 a German court ruled that removing a patient from life support is not a criminal offense [JURIST report] if the patient had previously given consent. In 2009, the Italian president refused to sign an Italian government decree [JURIST report] that would stop the euthanasia of comatose women because it would violate the separation of power overturning a previous court ruling. In 2006 a proposed bill that would legalize the option of assisted suicide in the UK was set aside by the House of Lords following opposition from the public and two physician groups [JURIST reports]. Also in 2006 the US Supreme Court upheld Oregon's Death with Dignity Act [JURIST report], the only American state law that allows physician assisted suicide.

 

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