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Euthanasia should be banned across Europe, rules Council

By on Monday, 30 January 2012

The Council of Europe, which has ruled that euthanasia must always remain illegal Photo: Fourmy Mario/ABACA/Press Association Images

The Council of Europe, which has ruled that euthanasia must always remain illegal Photo: Fourmy Mario/ABACA/Press Association Images

The Council of Europe has ruled that euthanasia and assisted suicide should be banned in every country across the Continent.

In a declaration that will have huge implications on human rights laws in its 47 member countries the Strasbourg-based organisation announced that such practices “must always be prohibited”.

The move will represent a major setback to assisted dying campaigners in the UK who want Britain to follow Holland, Belgium and Switzerland in allowing doctors to help to end the lives of their patients.

The explicit condemnation of euthanasia was inserted into a non-binding resolution entitled “Protecting Human Rights and Dignity by Taking Into Account Previously Expressed Wishes of Patients”.

The resolution had originally simply focused on the human rights questions of “advance directives”, or “living wills”, in which people set out how they wish to be treated if they became mentally incapacitated.

But members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe argued that living wills, which became legal in the UK under the 2005 Mental Capacity Act, were inextricably connected to euthanasia.

They successfully moved an amendment forbidding euthanasia by 34 votes to 16 with six abstentions.

The amendment said that “euthanasia, in the sense of the intentional killing by act or omission of a dependent human being for his or her alleged benefit must always be prohibited”.
Among those fighting for the amendment was British member Edward Leigh, the Tory MP for Gainsborough and a Catholic.

He referred to the case of Kerrie Wooltorton, a 26-year-old from Norwich who died in 2009 by poisoning after her living will prevented doctors from resuscitating her.

He said: “Can my fellow delegates here in Strasbourg imagine how they would feel if they received a phone call informing them that one of their children had drunk poison and that ambulance and hospital staff who had everything necessary to save the child’s life stood by not helping instead as the child lay dying?

“That is a situation that advanced directives or living wills allow,” Mr Leigh said. “This is not alarmist talk – this is the historic fact, the track record.”

But Paul Flynn, the Labour MP for Newport West, fought the amendment, saying it changed the “entire nature” of the report.

“Eighty-five per cent of the people of Britain are demanding reforms and demanding change,” he said.

“We as legislators must also take into account the majority view of the people,” Mr Flynn added.

“It is an important human right to have the right to die in a manner of our choosing.”

The Council of Europe was set up in 1949 to further European integration by harmonising human rights laws, although it is unable to pass laws itself. Its new resolution on euthanasia will, however, help to define the principles that should govern the application of living wills across its member states. It will be therefore hugely influential in helping governments to resist pressure to weaken or abolish laws prohibiting assisted suicide and euthanasia.

The Council bases its work on the European Convention on Human Rights. It includes the European Court of Human Rights, which enforces the convention and to which Europeans can bring cases if they believe that a member country has violated their rights.

  • Anonymous

    It looks like a minority with a non-democratic aim managed to change a resolution. And on the first web page of the Council of Europe we see the word ‘democracy’. What nonsense.

    If someone wishes to check in their conciousness, that is their decision. 

  • Puzzled

    I’m puzzled..what does this comment mean

  • lucas clover alcolea

    Just that someones upset they didn’t get there way and thinks that a majority of people want to kill themselves. 

  • Anonymous

    I am always amazed by media manipulation and outright misinformation.
    I am a great grandfather.  I shall always stand on the side of life. I shall fight even for one extra minute to be able to tell someone – I love you… According to personal experience, those who favour euthanasia, suicide, abortion are severely ignorant of life’s worthiness.  They see life through utilitarian perspective.  Money, Hollywood hedonism are not the reason why we live. Love is.  Even when I was alone (incarcerated and tortured because of political views) never felt alone, worthless.  I shall never give any doctor, judge, or worse yet, any legislator the power to decide when I will stop living. I do not belong to any political party and do not belong to any religious affiliation and I am free of any social fads.  I do admire Catholic Church firm stand and respect for life.  Let my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren live…

  • Jacob Suggs

    “It is an important human right to have the right to die in a manner of our choosing.”

    Does this mean fatal car accidents are also human rights violations? Cuz I certainly don’t want to die in a car wreck. I mean, ideally I’d like to die right after finishing a good book, eating a rare steak, while on Mars. But now that I know that it’s a human right for me to be able to do so, I’m gonna contact my government and tell them that they are obligated to make that happen.

    Otherwise, they’re violating my human rights, ya know?

  • Graham

    Every human right confers a duty on every other person. To say that one has a human right to choose the when and how of one’s death  confers on every person a responsibility to make sure that that happens irrespective of the fact that a person does not want to ‘kill’ someone or take part in their death. This cannot be right as it flies in the face of the human rights to life, liberty and security of person. These are inalienable rights given to all people. Noone can force somebody to end a life just because it is written on a piece of paper. Would you ‘kill’ someone? I cannot imagine how a person suffering from a terminal disease must feel but they cannot expect anybody to end their life for them if that person has doubts about doing so. For the human right to work it has to be a total responsibility and a total duty on everybody to make it happen - religious beliefs and morals notwithstanding.

  • Dave

    So a resolution entitled “Protecting Human Rights and Dignity by Taking Into Account Previously Expressed Wishes of Patients” decides it can best do so by… ignoring those same wishes.

  • Anonymous

    According to Paul Flynn (article ibid) 85% of the British public wanted change. Thus the minority and non democratic reference.

    The last sentence is a statement of freedom of will. I can understand and appreciate the fear that people may be murdered for gain if euthanasia was freely available. However, the legislation proposed in this country is severely constricted. So if someone does not want to commit suicide, they don’t have to and there is nobody I’m aware of who wants it to be compulsory. So the religious can easily opt out or rather not opt in, but for others they should have a choice.

  • Anonymous

    Upset that a bill that was designed to prevent problems with living wills was changed according to some outdated set of rules and reduces civil freedom? Yes, you betcha.

    The bit after your ‘and’ is just stupid, when you follow a silly and self-contradictory set of rules you can have no imagination of what I think. So throw away your chains, alcolea, don’t be frightened of learning how to think for yourself.

  • James McLaughlin


  • Anonymous

    If you want to end your life, no one can stop you.  Enlisting someone to do the job for you is completely different.  

  • Anonymous

    Is that what’s happening in Holland?

    Many did not want it. Children do not know how to choose.
    Once you give the authority to kill – believe me, it is impossible to control it…
    I know. I have seen it. 

  • Brian

    Simple and easy and wholly unrefutable reply to you:
    If you don’t want to do something then don’t do it. If you don’t like assisted suicide then don’t suicide, if you don’t like abortions, then don’t have or perform one, if you don’t like cake, don’t eat it.

    But conversely, as long as an action is not harmful to society you morally cannot say to someone that they cannot do it, and even for some actions harmful to society this also holds.

    It always amazes me with the “anti-” crowds (ye’re not pro-life, because ye do nothing to promote life after birth or after stopping pulling the plug) that they cannot let other people do their own thing and have their own opinions and lead their own lives, especially as these lives are blameless, harmless and often quite beneficial to the world.

  • Brian

    “I know. I have seen it”

    Don’t tell me, you go around killing abortion doctors right?

    Yeah please stop speaking out of your posterior, it is dirtying everything you come into contact with.

  • Anonymous

    Do you have any examples?

  • Jacob Suggs

    Refutation of your “wholly unrefutable” reply to someone else:

    “But conversely, as long as an action is not harmful to society you
    morally cannot say to someone that they cannot do it, and even for some
    actions harmful to society this also holds.”

    First this sentence is nearly meaningless because all actions which harm individuals, and especially the legalization of such, harm society, as seen by:
    1) Individuals are part of society and
    2) Legalization of such measure spread society’s tolerance of them, which is bad because then:
            a) more individuals will do them and be harmed, and the worth or health of society is measured by how well it causes its members to be treated – by themselves or others and
            b) it promotes ideas like the sentence you just said which exacerbates 1) and 2a).

    Secondly, abortion is not something you do to yourself, it’s something you do to your child, and “pulling the plug” is something a doctor does to you, so your statement does not even say that they shouldn’t prohibited by law, let alone demonstrate this.

    Thirdly, while you are correct that some actions which harm society cannot be prohibited by coercive force (ie laws), you give neither a general rule to see which actions can and cannot be prohibited, nor any argument at all that the issues you mention fall into such a category.

    Fourthly, your statement that a person should not do something he doesn’t want to (together with the unspoken assumption that the people who don’t want to should shut up about the people who do) only matters if you’ve demonstrated that those actions are morally permissible in the first place – which you haven’t – otherwise the person’s wants make no difference whatsoever. (And “I think they are” does not count as a demonstration). So this statement gives nothing either.

    Fifthly, we do in fact do things to promote life after birth and in liue of pulling the plug – the Catholic Church in particular is actually the largest charitable organization in the world, and has founded many, many hospitals and other centers of medical care, and our other Christian brethren pull more than their weight as well. So on this point you are simply overtly factually incorrectly. But even if you were correct that we did nothing beyond try to stop abortion and killing the sick, such acts themselves promote life after birth and instead of being killed because they seek to enable such life to exist at all – which is the first step. You can’t “promote” the life of a dead person.

    Sixthly opinions which lead people to kill their children and pretend it’s ok are what we like to refer to as “wrong” and people who do this are not leading “blameless lives”. In particular, they have the blame for killing their children. Now, this is not said to try to demonize such people, there is absolutely nothing from which a person can not bounce back (and in fact, people who have had abortions then realized what they did often repent and make the most famous pro-life people – especially the famed “Roe” of Roe v Wade), but simply to point out that unless you refute the moral claims we make then your ideas of us mean old grumpy religious/moral people forcing our views on happy dancing innocent people who want nothing more than to kill their parents and their children but are lamentably being stymied in this quest by the evil right wing conspiracy are, in short, silly.

  • Dr.Abhijit Dam

    People should realise that requests for euthanasia should be viewed as a CRY FOR HELP!

  • Anonymous

    You seem to be confused about people who want to end their own lives. It is tremendous harm to an individual in exquisite pain, or suffering from the ability to properly communicate or live a reasonable life to be unable to end their own lives when that is their considered wish. It is also harmful to their close friends and relatives to be unable to help such a person because of fear of prosecution. On the other hand, if a person has not expressed such a wish then all efforts must be made to continue that person’s life. It is immoral to conclude anything else.

    I certainly don’t see a right wing conspiracy to prevent this, more a theistic wish to feel good by enforcing outdated and plainly wrong rules on others.

    Trying to frame this in terms of children wishing to kill their parents is repugnant.

    And if your example against abortion is the case of Norma McCorvey, you should check how many times she has changed her mind about so many things. It would appear pretty random that she ended up anti-abortion and an RC to boot.

  • Stephen Chu

    Isn’t it ironic when some people support doctors with the license to kill while those who commit murder are branded as inhuman criminals? What double standard! Life is life and it ought to be lived to the last minute regardless of what the circumstances are. If God wants to take our life .. He can do so anytime anywhere and under any circumstances. Only a fool thinks that their breath is their own.  

  • Bain Wellington

    Just so we can see where Acleron is going
    with this, are we to conclude that you are opposed to suicide (assisted or
    otherwise) except in cases where the propositus is [A] suffering
    “tremendous” harm (define “tremendous”) through [1] experiencing
    “exquisite pain” (define “exquisite”) or [2] suffering from
    the inability to [a] “properly communicate” (define “properly”
    and “communicate”) or [b] “live a reasonable life” (define
    “reasonable”) and [B] has signified (when, how, to whom) “their
    considered wish” (explain how the relevant authorities are to discern that
    the wish is a “considered” one)?  Or are you just in favour of decriminalising suicide
    (assisted or otherewise) altogether?

  • Donatoe

    Nazi Germany…Were you born yesterday?

  • Anonymous

    Exquisite pain is defined by the sufferer, a physical assault to a stoic by definition is less pain than the same assault to others. Quality of life is also a personal definition.

    Adjective:Very great in amount, scale, or intensity
    Hope that helps you.
    It is is chronically corrosive to society to perpetuate suffering when it is unnecessary. If someone decides that their life is unendurable, who are you to say different. But a society that forces such people to continue suffering when it is unnecessary is an abomination.Considered consent is already accepted in law in a variety of areas such as wills, permission for operations, consent in clinical trials etc.The discussion can only be about assisted suicide, unassisted suicide is not illegal in this country. 

  • Anonymous

    Godwin’s law – you have just lost any argument you had.

  • Anonymous

    Right to Life should be uphold by all people, including Legislators

  • Rob

    I personally heard of two examples from the Netherlands. On old lady did not want to have a particular procedure done because she was afraid of the hospital, but her doctor said he would take care of her. She had the procedure and while recovering, her doctor had his day off, and when he came back she was dead. This happens often! over 1000 cases in just 1990. The second story was of a grandchild asking her grandmother when she was going to get euthanised. In other words, “When are we going to kill you Granny!” Is this the kind of society you want?

  • James H

    There’s abundant anecdotal evidence that old people in Holland prefer to go to Germany if they need to go to hospital, because the medical profession at home assumes a desire to die.

  • James H

    Hey, a content-free rebuttal!

    Just what we’ve come to expect from you lot.

  • Anonymous

    Of course not and it is a mistake to state that what I am asking for would lead to it. I want  legislation for anybody to be able to toss off the mortal coil. A fit person can do that easily, some people want to die but are physically unable to do so. Why should they be discriminated against.

  • Anonymous

    Is that an official position of the Dutch medical organisation or a groundless fear by these old people? There is a solution to either scenario.

    But in general I see nothing insurmountable in formulating legislation that allows those who have made the choice to die to do so, with help, legally and to protect those who have not made such a choice.

    There is nothing morally incorrect in such legislation that anyone has mentioned in this thread so it looks like the only objection is the religious one.

  • Jorge Morais

    By your ridiculously flawed logic, rape should be allowed too. After all, if you don’t like rape, then simply don’t rape. Right?

    The whole point about the abortion debate is whether or not the unborn baby has rights. Duh.

  • Anonymous

    So Europe is aweful, corrupt and to be mistrusted when it disagrees with the Church. But when it agrees with the Church it is to be commended?

  • Anonymous

    Everyone for euthansia want to give US the power to decide! Not take it away. What you are saying is ridiculous! Stop fueling the fear-mongering.

  • Anonymous

    If people want to kill themselves they should be free to do so. Whether the CC or anyone else approves or not. No-one else should have to be a party to their doing so.

    What one religion wants cannot be made obligatory on those who think that religion is a load of bosh and bilge; if such an obligation were enacted into law for the EU, ther would be no reason why Christians who had been compelled to follow Catholic ethics despite not being Catholic could not, if ever the EU were so to desire, be required to follow what Islam says instead; even if some of those Christians were Catholics. 

    Only a strictly non-confessional approach, that does not favour any particular religion (or lack of it), can prevent the ideas of one religion (or lack of it) becoming a yoke on the necks of those who do not regard that religion (or lack of it) as an invasion of conscience. Then all are free, regardless of their views, to act in accord with their convictions, whatever those may be. Catholics will be free to recommend Catholic ethics without being required to be Muslim, Anglican, Buddhist or materialist, etc.; & every other group will have the same freedom. What no one group, regardless of what it might like, will be able to do, is insist those who reject it will have to follow it. This may not be ideal – but it is better than reviving the tyrannies of the past.

  • D.sloper

    Typical Catholics have not got a clue. Bet they would change their mind if they had a disability which mad their life intolerable ie severe pain etc.

  • Sayno2euthanasia

    I so agree and wish that this will happen here in America. Euthanasia is
    being done in very terrible ways in the medical field without the consent of the
    patient in cases. The family can be told it was natural causes when it was
    really euthansia.It has been done with the use of sedatives and other sneaky
    ways. There needs to be autopsy’s and investigations of patients who die in the
    care of medical staff. Euthanasia should NEVER EVER be done in the medical field
    since innocent lives have been taken, who knows how often. I would love to see
    really tough laws for doctors and medical staff who euthanize their patients. I
    would like to see anyone and everyone on the medical staff who dares to be
    involved with euthanizing a patient be sentenced to life in prison and just
    throw away the key. People from unborn children all the way up to the old and
    anyone in between should not be euthanized. If someone wants to end their life
    it needs to be done the old fashioned way on their own time not by medical staff
    since this will just cause more horrible problems for the innocent patients and
    or their family.

  • saynotoeuthanasia

    This has happened in america where euthanasia is illegal in many states,
    yet medical staff can get away with it. I don’t know what would happen if it
    became legal.It would just be crazy then. I’m not even sure how the medical
    staff can live with themselves after killing people. I will continue to fight
    for human rights to stop euthanasia of any kind.

  • saynotoeuthanasia

    Just do not make that part of a medical employee’s job because it does not
    belong in any medical facility

  • Kuncheria

    Taking away life of any person in any manner is killing, one may call it any name; its still killing.