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Opinions of the Lords Of Appeal for Judgement in the Cause

The Queen on the Application of Mrs. Dianne Pretty (Appellant) versus Director of Public Prosecutions (Respondent) and Secretary of State for the Home Deartment (Interested Party) 29 NOVEMBER 2001 [2001] UKHL 61

Lord Bingham of Cornhill

at para 1
"Mrs.Dianne Pretty...suffers from motor neurone disease...she has only a short time to live. She is mentally alert and would like to be able to to
take steps to bring her life to a peaceful end at a time of her choosing. But her physical incapacity is now such that that she can no longer, without
help, take her own life....she wishes to enlist the help of her own husband to that end, He himself is willing to give such help, but only if he can be
sure that he will not be prosecuted under section 2(1) of the suicide Act for aiding and abetting her suicide.

Mrs Pretty claims she has the right to her husband`s assistence in committing suicide and that section 2 of the 1961 Act, if it prohibits his helping and prevents the Director undertaking not to prosecute if he does, is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.". ....

3 Article 2 of the convention provides;

"Everyones right to life shall be protected by law. No one shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in the execution of a crime for which this penalty is provided by law."

5 "The article protects the right to life and prevents the deliberate taking of life save in very narrowly defined circumstanses. An article with that effect cannot be interpreted as conferring a right to die or to enlist the aid of another in bringing about one`s own death.."....

7 "There is no convention authority to support Mrs. Pretty`s argument. To the extent that there is any relevant authority it is adverse to her." ....

9 ..."But it is worthy of note that her argument is inconsistent with two principles deeply embeded in English law. The first is a distinction between
the taking of one`s own life by one`s own act and the taking of life through the intervention or with the help of a third party. The former has been permissable since suicide ceased to be a crime in 1961. The latter has continued to be proscribed.

10 Article 3 of the convention provides; No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

12 ..."Mrs. Pretty is arguing that the state is under a legal obligation to sanction a lawful means for terminating her life. There is nothing, either in
the wording of the convention or the Strasboug jurisprudence, to suggest that any such duty exsists by virtue of article 3."

16 Article 8 of the convention provides; 1 Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and correspondence.

18 "Any attempt to base a right to die on article 8 founders on exactly the same objection as the attempt based on article 2, namely, that the alleged right would extinguish the very benefit on which it is supposedly based."

29 ..."The House of Lords Select Committee recognised the undesirability of anything which could appear to encourage suicide."

32 Article 14 of the convention provides; Prohibition of discrimination....

34 If, as I have concluded, none of the articles on which Mrs. Pretty relies gives her the right which she has claimed, it follows that article 14 would
not avail her even if she could establish that the operation of section 2(1) of the 1961 Act is discriminatory."

Lord Steyn

47 "The principle relief sought by Mrs. Pretty was a declaration that the DPP had acted unlawfully in refusing to give an undertaking that he would not consent to a prosecution of her husband for an offence under section 2(1) of the Suicide Act 1961 if he should assist her in committing suicide."...

51 "On the hearing of the appeal the House heard oral submissions on behalf of Mrs. Pretty, the DPP and Home Secretary and received written submissions from a Roman Catholic Archbishop as well as the Medical Ethics Alliance, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children and Alert. I wish to pay tribute to the quality of the arguments placed before the House."

58 "In combination the cotextual factors which I have alluded to justify an initial disbelief that any of the articles of the European Convention could
possibly bear the strong meaning for which counsel for Mrs. Pretty must argue. Despite his incisive arguments the position is clear. None of the
articles can bear the interpretation put forward."

59 ...[on article 2] "The interpretation now put forward is the exact opposite viz a right of Mrs. Pretty to end her life by intentional human
intervention.Nothing in the article or the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights can assist Mrs. Pretty`s case on this article."

60 [article 3] ..."The word treatment must take its colour from the context in which it appears. While I would not wish to give a narrow interpretation to what may constitute degrading treatment, the concept appears singularly inapt to convey the idea that the state must guarantee to individuals a right to die with the deliberate assistance of third parties."..

61 [re article 8]..."It must fail on the groud that the guarantee under article 8 prohibits interference with the way in which an individual leads
his life and does not relate to the manner in which he wishes to die."

63 Article 9 provides; Freedom ot thought, conscience and religion.

..."The article does not yield support for the reasons already discussed, section 2 is a legitimate rational and proportionate response to the wider
problem of vulnerable people who would otherwise feel compelled to commit suicide."

68 "The logic of the European Convention does not justify the conclusion that the House must rule that a state is obliged to legalise assissted suicide. It does not require the state to repeal a provision such as section2(1) of the 1961 Act. On the other hand, it is open to a democratic legislature to introduce such a measure."...

Lord Hope of Craighead

76 ..."The Director cannot be held to have acted unlawfully within the meaning of section 6(1) [Human Rights Act] of the 1998 Act when he declined to give the undertaking unless it can be demonstrated that the undertaking was one that he had power to give."

80 ..."In my opinion the Director is entitled to form a policy as to the criteria which he will apply when he is excercising his discretion under 2(4)
of the 1961 Act."

82 ..."What Mrs. Pretty seeks is an undertaking, before the event occurs, that if her husband helps her to commit suicide he will not be prosecuted. I am not aware of any case where the Lord Advocate has given an undertaking of that kind. It is not his function to permit individuals to commit acts which the law treats as criminal,"

91 "As for the consequences of not giving the undertaking....It has not been possible in these proceedings to examine the [medical] facts in detail.But there is enough information available to cast serious doubt on the question whether the consequences of the refusal, taken as a whole in the context of the treatment which is available, attain the minimum level of inhuman or degrading treatment within the meaning of the article."

95 .....All he [the Director] has been told was that Mrs. Pretty would be helped by her husband to commit suicide. Where, when and how this was to be done has not been specified.".... "the official position of various medical associations, including the British Medical Association, is against
decriminalising assisted suicide. It is common knowledge that most members of the medical profession are opposed to any involvement in this activity." ....

106 "The argument that article 14 prohibits discrimination in the enjoyment of a right to commit suicide would, if sound, have disturbing and far
reaching consequences. It would make it impracticable for the state to intervene to prevent people taking their own lives, whether by removing them from places or equipment which could be used for the purpose or by rendering medical assistance to prevent death."...

Lord Hobhouse of Woodborough

109 "The parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on 25th June 1999 adopted a text which addressed the need to protect the dignity and qualiy of life of the terminally ill and the dying....

"by upholding the prohibition against intentionally taking the life of terminally ill or dying persons...

(1) accordance with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights...
(2) recognising that a terminally ill or dying person`s wish to die never constitutes any legal claim to die at the hand of another person.

111 "Joining in bringing about the intentional death of another person is in principle the crime of murder.".....

114 "The functions of the Director do not include giving undertakings in advance of the events as to how he would excercise that discretion on
hypothetical facts."

123 "In conclusion therefore ... I would sress that the proceedure of seeking to by-pass the ordinary operation of our system of criminal justice by
raising questions of law and applying for judicial review of decisions of the Director cannot be approved and should be firmly discouraged.".....

Lord Scott of Foscote

124 "I have had the advantage of reading the opinions of my noble and learned friends ..I am in complete agreement with them..."