All My Rights. (at Law)

By Schneider, Carl E. | The Hastings Center Report, July-August 2002 | Go to article overview

All My Rights. (at Law)


Schneider, Carl E., The Hastings Center Report


Diane Pretty was an Englishwoman in her early 40s who had been married nearly a quarter of a century. In November 1999, she learned she had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis--in Britain, motor neurone disease. Her condition deteriorated rapidly, and soon she was "essentially paralysed from the neck downwards." (1) She had "virtually no decipherable speech" and was fed by a tube. She was expected to live only a few months or even weeks. As a court later explained, however, "her intellect and capacity to make decisions are unimpaired. The final stages of the disease are exceedingly distressing and undignified. As she is frightened and distressed at the suffering and indignity that she will endure if the disease runs its course, she very strongly wishes to be able to control how and when she dies and thereby be spared that suffering and indignity."

Suicide is not a crime in Britain, but assisting suicide is. On 27 July 2001, Mrs. Pretty's solicitor wrote the Director of Public Prosecutions asking for an assurance that her husband would not be prosecuted if he helped his wife commit suicide. The DPP refused because it would not "grant immunities that condone, require, or purport to authorise or permit the future commission of any criminal offence, no matter how exceptional the circumstances."

On 20 August, Pretty sought judicial review of the DPP's decision. She conceded she had no claim under "the common law of England," but she argued that a 1961 assisted suicide statute violated the European Convention on Human Rights. On 29 November 2001, the House of Lords affirmed a lower court's refusal to countermand the DPP's decision. The leading judgment in the House of Lords analyzed the Convention's provisions at length and commented that its decision was "in accordance with a very broad international consensus. Assisted suicide and consensual killing are unlawful in all Convention countries except the Netherlands, but even if [Dutch law] were operative in this country it would not relieve Mr Pretty of liability ... if he were to assist Mrs Pretty to take her own life." Mrs. Pretty had argued that she was not challenging the statute generally, but saying only it should not apply in "the particular facts of her case: that of a mentally competent adult who knows her own mind, is free from any pressure and has made a fully-informed and voluntary decision." The judgment invoked Dr. Johnson: "First, `Laws are not made for particular cases but for men in general.' Second, `To permit a law to be modified at discretion is to leave the community without law. It is to withdraw the direction of that public wisdom by which the deficiencies of private understanding are to be supplied'."

On 21 December 2001, Pretty took her case to the European Court of Human Rights. On 29 April, it rejected her claim. Four of her arguments the court readily dismissed. First was her argument that the 1961 act violated Article 2 of the Convention: "Everyone's right to life shall be protected by law." Mrs. Pretty thought that article "protected the right to life and not life itself." The court concluded, however, that Article 2 could not "without a distortion of language, be interpreted as conferring the diametrically opposite right, namely a right to die." On the contrary, Article 2 was "first and foremost a prohibition on the use of lethal force or other conduct which might lead to the death of a human being."

The court made similarly short shrift of Mrs. Pretty's argument that the 1961 act violated Article 3: "No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." Mrs. Pretty alleged that the statute "discloses inhuman and degrading treatment for which the State is responsible as it will thereby be failing to protect her from the suffering which awaits her as her illness reaches its ultimate stages." But the court said that Article 3 was most commonly applied to "intentionally inflicted" acts of a state and that Mrs. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

All My Rights. (at Law)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.