Monday, January 30, 2012

Council of Europe on Euthanasia

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe ("PACE") has issued a non-binding declaration (mainly aimed at getting member states to beef up their laws governing living wills and advance directives) in which it opines that "[e]uthanasia, in the sense of the intentional killing by act or omission of a dependent human being for his or her alleged benefit, must always be prohibited."

A number of different publications are mistakenly alleging that PACE has called for a permanent ban on assisted suicide. The resolution explicitly says that it "is not intended to deal with the issues of euthanasia or assisted suicide," and while it goes on to condemn euthanasia, it says nothing additional about assisted suicide.

The PACE declaration may indeed have some political effect on movements within Europe toward legalization of euthanasia. But it's a mistake to report it as a condemnation of assisted suicide, or to anticipate that it will have strong effect on pending cases involving assisted suicide. The European Court of Human Rights, for example, has repeatedly recognized the distinction between assisted suicide and euthanasia, and has held that Article 8 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms protects the individual's choice to avoid a painful and undignified death.

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