Assisted Suicide in UK Law

Leading Cases
  • Nicklinson v Ministry of Justice; R (on the applicaion of AM) v DPP
    • Court of Appeal
    • 31 Jul 2013

    The Policy certainly does not lead to what would otherwise be an extraordinary anomaly, that those who are brought in to help from outside the family circle, but without the natural love and devotion which obtains within the family circle, are more likely to be prosecuted than a family member when they do no more than replace a loving member of the family, acting out of compassion, who supports the "victim" to achieve his desired suicide.

  • Nicklinson v Ministry of Justice [QBD]
    • Queen's Bench Division
    • 12 Mar 2012

    The first declaration is sought on the basis that the common law defence of necessity is available to a charge of murder in the case of voluntary active euthanasia and/or to a charge under section 2(1) Suicide Act 1961 in the case of assisted suicide provided that: (a) the Court has confirmed in advance that the defence of necessity will arise on the facts of the particular case; (b) the Court is satisfied that the person is suffering from a medical condition that causes unbearable suffering; there are no alternative means available by which his suffering may be relieved; and he has made a voluntary, clear, settled and informed decision to end his life; (c) the assistance is to be given by a medical doctor who is satisfied that his or her duty to respect autonomy and to ease the patient's suffering outweighs his or her duty to preserve life.

  • The Queen (on the application of T) v Ministry of Justice
    • Queen's Bench Division (Administrative Court)
    • 09 Oct 2018

    There exist facts bearing on the issues in question, and there are also a range of questions not reducible to hard fact, about which opinions must be formed and considered. The methodology, rigour and accuracy of the conclusions of such a study is properly a question of expert opinion.

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

    I would for my part question whether, as suggested on his behalf, the Director might not if so advised make a public statement on his prosecuting policy other than in the Code for Crown Prosecutors which he is obliged to issue by section 10 of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985. Plainly such a step would call for careful consultation and extreme circumspection, and could be taken only under the superintendence of the Attorney General (by virtue of section 3 of the 1985 Act).

    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.

  • R (Purdy) v DPP
    • House of Lords
    • 30 Jul 2009

    I would therefore allow the appeal and require the Director to promulgate an offence-specific policy identifying the facts and circumstances which he will take into account in deciding, in a case such as that which Ms Purdy's case exemplifies, whether or not to consent to a prosecution under section 2(1) of the 1961 Act.

  • R (on the application of Nicklinson and another) v Ministry of Justice; R (on the application of AM) v DPP
    • Supreme Court
    • 25 Jun 2014

    Third, the Parliamentary process is a better way of resolving issues involving controversial and complex questions of fact arising out of moral and social dilemmas. The legislature has access to a fuller range of expert judgment and experience than forensic litigation can possibly provide. It is better able to take account of the interests of groups not represented or not sufficiently represented before the court in resolving what is surely a classic "polycentric problem".

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