The Winterton Bill
Chapter 19 showed how the Bland case left the law in a 'morally and intellectually inconsistent' shape, prohibiting the purposeful termination of patients' lives by an act but permitting it, at least in the case of patients in pvs, by omission. In chapter 20 we saw how the recent guidance issued by the BMA appears to have embraced that inconsistency and extended it to patients with less serious degrees of mental disability. In December 1999, in an attempt to restore the law's consistency, Ann Winterton MP introduced the Medical Treatment (Prevention of Euthanasia) Bill. This chapter outlines the bill's provisions, identifies criticisms of it which were made by the BMA and the government, and evaluates those criticisms.
The bill was short, comprising three brief clauses. Clause 1 provided:
It shall be unlawful for any person responsible for the care of a patient to withdraw or withhold from the patient medical treatment or sustenance if his purpose or one of his purposes in doing so is to hasten or otherwise cause the death of the patient.
Clause 2 stated:
In this Act –
'medical treatment' means any medical or surgical treatment, including the administration of drugs or the use of any mechanical or other apparatus for the provision or support of ventilation or of any other bodily function; 'patient' means a person suffering from mental or physical illness or debility; 'sustenance' means the provision of nutrition or hydration, howsoever delivered.
Clause 3 provided that the Act should be cited as the Medical Treatment (Prevention of Euthanasia) Act 2000; that it should come into force at the