A third argument prominently deployed in favour of legalising VAE is that the present law is hypocritical. It is argued that, while the law prohibits VAE in theory, it is unenforced in practice, and that this inaction against what is a common practice betrays tacit approval. In other words, while the law ostensibly sets its face against VAE, it nevertheless winks at it. The law's alleged hypocrisy is compounded, the argument continues, by the fact that while it prohibits doctors from administering or handing lethal drugs to patients it nevertheless allows doctors intentionally to end patients' lives, and help patients end their own lives, in other ways.
Before evaluating these criticisms, we need first to consider what the state of the law is. We shall outline the law in England, though the law in other jurisdictions whose law is derived from English law, such as the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, is similar.1 To begin with, we shall consider which of the three competing moral approaches outlined in chapter 4 the law adopts.
The law has never adopted vitalism: doctors have never been under a duty to preserve life at all costs.2 Nor has the law historically accepted the 'Quality of life' approach – that only those with 'worthwhile' lives have a right not to be killed. Rather, the law has traditionally adopted the inviolability principle. In particular, it has always been murder for a doctor actively and intentionally to hasten a patient's death. It is murder,____________________