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12 - ‘Only Time Will Tell’

Escape from the Medically Assisted Suicide Spiral

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 December 2021

Edward S. Dove
Affiliation:
University of Edinburgh
Niamh Nic Shuibhne
Affiliation:
University of Edinburgh
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Summary

UK law on assisted suicide is stuck in a cycle: courts uphold its illegality and defer to parliaments to enact change, but parliaments are reluctant to cross that threshold. This chapter deconstructs the case law on maintaining the status quo and constitutionally deferring to the legislature. It also considers reasons why legislators have declined to enact legal reform – autonomy issues, safeguards, palliative alternatives and the slippery slope. It looks at three jurisdictions in which this matter is overtly constitutional, and finds similarities among the criminal provisions that litigants sought to overturn and the rights on the basis of which they were overturned, leading to legislative change. The contested criminal provisions reflect the Suicide Act 1961 and the constitutional provisions against which they were considered to mirror the Human Rights Act. Currently, the only evidence of escape from liminality is a de facto policy of non-prosecution. With the UK Supreme Court poised to declare incompatibility with the European Convention on Human Rights, the ground has been laid for a constitutional answer that forces the legislature’s hand and enables a move beyond liminality.

Type
Chapter
Information
Law and Legacy in Medical Jurisprudence
Essays in Honour of Graeme Laurie
, pp. 250 - 278
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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