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ISBN-13: 9781405159579

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Additional info for Withholding and Withdrawing Life-Prolonging Medical Treatment: Guidance for Decision Making, Third Edition

Sample text

France in which the European Court of Human Rights clearly stated that the Article 2 right to life does not extend to an unborn fetus, but rather the protection to be afforded to the fetus is a matter to be decided by individual states [39]. 6). Article 3 – the right to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment In addition to the Human Rights Act’s guarantee of protection for life it also declares that ‘[N]o one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’ (Article 3).

These issues are discussed in this section which sets the framework within which individual decisions must be made. 18. 1. The Human Rights Act 1998 came fully into force throughout the UK in October 2000. As a result, all public authorities are required to act in accordance with the rights set out in the Human Rights Act, and all statutes have to be interpreted so far as possible to be in accordance with those rights. When the Act first came into force there was some uncertainty about whether all doctors are considered to be ‘public authorities’, who are bound by the terms of the Human Rights Act, by virtue of the nature of the service they provide.

In other words, it is only lawful to withhold or Defining key terms and concepts 19 withdraw treatment when to continue it is not in the patient’s best interests. The courts have confirmed that, in such circumstances, the health team would not be in breach of its duty to protect life under the Human Rights Act (see Section 18) [31]. This distinction between foresight and intention is well established in law and is crucial to good practice since it means that doctors are not obliged to prolong life for as long as technically possible irrespective of the circumstances and the wishes of the patient.

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Withholding and Withdrawing Life-Prolonging Medical Treatment: Guidance for Decision Making, Third Edition


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