Thursday, February 11, 2010


When asked to write about my interests and possible areas of discussion in private law, I was forced with the awful possibility that I may have to self-reflect. As Elizabeth said, “Who am I!?”. Well, dear reader, fear not - I will not bore you with the details. But what I have realized is that, at present, I am more interested in a few public law issues and these will be the subject of my first blog. Despite the seriousness of my first blog, I hope to follow with others that are more light-hearted or at least less about death.

Although the cockles of my heart are mostly warmed by private law, there are one or two (mostly) constitutional issues that really get my goat going. One of them is euthanasia. Euthanasia is defined by the House of Lords Select Committee on medical ethics as "a deliberate intervention undertaken with the express intention of ending a life, to relieve intractable suffering". We live in a constitutional, democratic state with the right to life, dignity, equality and all the other wonderfully colourful and flowery entitlements you can think of. Yet, we have a ‘moral’ and ‘legal’ issue with being given the right to die with dignity. Although, I suspect that most of these ‘moral’ issues are deeply affected and tempered by religious persuasions. Anyone who has watched a loved one’s life and soul being eaten away by some tortuous disease will understand how ridiculous this is. I use the word ‘tortuous’ intentionally. If you juxtapose this with the idea that we have the right not to be tortured both internationally and domestically, the absurdity of the current situation is magnified.

I understand all of the arguments against euthanasia. One of them is the concern that this would open the floodgates to defenses where people have ‘off-ed’ family members on compassionate grounds. However, on the contrary, if the situation were to be legally regulated, there would be no grounds for a defense. All euthanasia would take place under the strictest guidance of medical professionals and only once all legal stipulations have been satisfied. This would leave no loopholes for anyone to claim that they had killed to end the suffering of the deceased.

My proposition is this: legislation is passed that affords you the right to an assisted suicide. But only in the appropriate situation where a number of conditions have been satisfied. There would need to be a board of medical professionals, from a range of disciplines, who authorize the event. I would advocate that there be a psychological evaluation, intense medical screening as well as counseling involved. The euthanasia should only be authorized once ALL requisite professionals involved (not only one or two, but a panel of doctors) have agreed that the condition is terminal and advanced. It would have to be the case that to not authorize the euthanasia would be cruel and inhuman.

It makes no sense to me that we are quite happy to let the most frail in our society wither away in an excruciating and undignified way. This does not give effect to the right to life, at least not as I understand it. It does not give effect to the right to dignity. I sincerely hope that our future understanding of the right to life will incorporate a notion of the right to die.

1 comment:

  1. Nice article :)

    Another slightly more wacky concept: We are brought into this world without our consent. Yes, any other way would be impossible but why are we not allowed to choose whether or not we wish to remain?