People detained in prisons, psychiatric hospitals, police custody and immigration detention centres remain a cause of concern, particularly to professionals, politicians and the media. As the number of people detained by the state increases, Courts have been taking an increasing interest in cases in which individuals have died in state custody. Such cases are subsumed under Article 2 of the Human Rights Act 1998 – the right to life. Article 2 case law has elucidated key principles that can be applied in practice. Importantly, it imposes on states not only a negative duty not to take life intentionally or negligently, but also a positive duty to safeguard life. The inherent positive obligations have two aspects: first, there is a duty to provide an effective and impartial investigation in cases of death resulting from the activities of state officials, and second, a duty to safeguard and protect life.