Right to Life in UK Law

Leading Cases
  • R (Pretty) v DPP
    • House of Lords
    • 29 Nov 2001

    The subject of euthanasia and assisted suicide have been deeply controversial long before the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, which was followed two years later by the European Convention on Human Rights and Freedoms (1950). But it is of great importance to note that these are ancient questions on which millions in the past have taken diametrically opposite views and still do.

    Counsel submitted that this article explicitly recognises the principle of the personal autonomy of every individual. He argues that this principle necessarily involves a guarantee as against the state of the right to choose when and how to die. None of the decisions cited in regard to article 8 assist this argument.

    Respect for a person's "private life", which is the only part of article 8(1) that is in play here, relates to the way a person lives. The way she chooses to pass the closing moments of her life is part of the act of living, and she has a right to ask that this too must be respected. In that respect Mrs Pretty has a right of self-determination. In that sense, her private life is engaged even where in the face of a terminal illness she seeks to choose death rather than life.

  • R (Jean Middleton) v HM Coroner for Western Somersetshire and Secretary of State for the Home Department
    • House of Lords
    • 11 Mar 2004

    The European Court has also interpreted article 2 as imposing on member states a procedural obligation to initiate an effective public investigation by an independent official body into any death occurring in circumstances in which it appears that one or other of the foregoing substantive obligations has been, or may have been, violated and it appears that agents of the state are, or may be, in some way implicated.

  • Re T (an Adult) (Consent to Medical Treatment)
    • Court of Appeal
    • 30 Jul 1992

    Society's interest is in upholding the concept that all human life is sacred and that it should be preserved if at all possible. But this merely shifts the problem where the conflict occurs and calls for a very careful examination of whether, and if so the way in which, the individual is exercising that right. In case of doubt, that doubt falls to be resolved in favour of the preservation of life for if the individual is to override the public interest, he must do so in clear terms.

    Doctors faced with a refusal of consent have to give very careful and detailed consideration to the patient's capacity to decide at the time when the decision was made. What matters is that the doctors should consider whether at that time he had a capacity which was commensurate with the gravity of the decision which he purported to make. The more serious the decision, the greater the capacity required.

  • R (A and Others) v Lord Saville of Newdigate; R (on the application of Widgery Soldiers) v Members of The Tribunal Sitting as The Bloody Sunday Inquiry
    • Court of Appeal
    • 19 Dic 2001

    The degree of risk described as 'real and immediate' in Osman, as used in that case, was a very high degree of risk calling for positive action from the authorities to protect life. It was not an appropriate test to invoke in the present context. It was not an appropriate test to invoke in the present context. Such a degree of risk is well above the threshold that will engage Article 2 when the risk is attendant upon some action that an authority is contemplating putting into effect itself.

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