Assisted Suicide

Judgement on Abortion


Stransham-Ford v Minister of Justice and Correctional Services and Others, held that voluntary active euthanasia and doctor assisted suicide may be legally justified in certain circumstances. The court observed that the distinction between ‘active’ and ‘passive’ voluntary euthanasia is not legally tenable as in both instances the doctors concerned have the ‘actual’ or ‘eventual’ intention to terminate the patient’s life and have caused or hastened the patient’s death. South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeals (SCA) in 2016, overturned a ruling by a lower court granting a terminally ill patient the right to die, thereby upholding South Africa’s laws forbidding assisted suicide. In a ground-breaking ruling in 2015, South Africa’s High Court had granted a terminally ill man, Robin Stransham-Ford, the right to die with dignity by way of euthanasia. However, Stransham-Ford, who was suffering from cancer, died just hours before the High Court ruling was delivered.


In December 2020, Austria's Constitutional Court ruled that the blanket ban on physician-assisted dying was unconstitutional as it violated the right to self-determination. It is expected that legislation will be introduced in advance of the existing law being repealed on 31 December 2021. On December 11, 2020, the Austrian Constitutional Court ruled that the prohibition of “helping people to commit suicide” violates the right to self-determination.


The Constitutional Court of Colombia on Thursday issued a judicial decision extending the cases in which euthanasia or assisted death - legal in the country since 1997- to include cases of non-terminal illnesses. With six votes in favour, the Court's full chamber decided to allow the fundamental right to die with dignity in a medically assisted form for non-terminal patients "provided that the patient is in intense physical or psychological suffering, resulting from bodily injury or serious and incurable illness."

Colombia was the first Latin American country to decriminalize euthanasia.


The Supreme Court confirms for the first time the right to euthanasia for a 43-year-old woman. Ana Estrada, who has been suffering from a rare form of pneumonia since the age of twelve, had obtained - the first in the history of the country - the first green light in February from a court in Lima


In China, only the patients’ family members or surrogates can make the decision to limit treatment. At present, only a small number of families informed of treatment for their loved ones in hopeless cases take the initiative to make the decision to withdraw treatment, in order to alleviate the suffering of patients. Most families that make the decision to withdraw treatment do so for economic reasons, and most of them come from rural areas. They have to pay a higher proportion of medical costs by themselves, and these costs can leave them in poverty. Xue and Zhu showed that economic condition was the key factor in deciding whether to forgo treatment.


  • Pretty v United Kingdom: Diane Pretty died of natural causes on 11 May 2002 from motor neurone disease, a paralysing, degenerative and incurable illness. Her fight to choose the time and manner of her death assisted by her husband was a resounding legal failure. A unanimous body of judicial opinion in both the English Divisional Court and the House of Lords, followed by the European Court of Human Rights, denied that her rights under the European Convention on Human Rights had been infringed. Thus, the refusal of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to exempt Mrs. Pretty's husband from prosecution to undertake efforts to assist Mrs. Pretty in taking her own life was ultimately held to be lawful. At the same time, the domestic legal prohibition on assisting suicide.
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