13 December 2018, The Tablet

A scholarly look at the ethics of voluntary euthanasia. John Keown reviews Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Lessons from Belgium

by John Keown

A scholarly look at the ethics of voluntary euthanasia. John Keown reviews Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Lessons from Belgium

Demonstrators in Brussels protest against legalised assisted dying
Photo: CNS/EPA, Julien Warnand

 

Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Lessons from Belgium
David Albert Jones, Chris Gastmans & Calum Mackellar (EDS)
(Cambridge University Press, 378 PP, £25.99)
Tablet bookshop price £23.39 • tel 020 7799 4064

The question of whether the law should permit voluntary euthanasia (VE) and/or physician-assisted suicide (PAS) is one of the most challenging and controversial ethical and legal issues of the age. Over the past quarter of a century in particular, the issue has been closely examined in the UK, courtesy of repeated parliamentary debates, reports of select committees and input from the medical professional organisations and religious bodies. In 2014, in the case of Tony Nicklinson, the Supreme Court rejected the claim that there is a human right to VE/PAS. It may soon have to revisit the question of whether there is a human right to PAS, a question answered negatively by the Court of Appeal in June in the case of Noel Conway. Should, then, the UK follow those few jurisdictions that have relaxed their laws?

In 1984, the Dutch Supreme Court declared VE and PAS lawful for patients who were suffering, the court reasoning that the doctor’s duty to alleviate suffering could sometimes trump the duty not to kill.

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