February 3 | comments icon 1 COMMENT     print icon print


Council of Europe delivers a victory for life

— European human rights body rules that euthanasia and assisted suicide should be banned in every country on the continent

By Stephen Reilly

Euthanasia and assisted suicide should be banned in every country in the continent, the Council of Europe has ruled.

In a declaration that will have legal implications in its 47 member states, the Strasbourg-based organisation announced that such practices ‘must always be prohibited.’

Victory for pro-lifers

The move will be a boost to pro-life campaigners who have been fighting attempts to legalise euthanasia and assisted suicide in many countries including Scotland.

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 so-called living wills, in which people set out how they wish to be treated should they become mentally incapacitated.

However members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe argued that living wills, which became legal in Britain 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.’

Political support

Among those fighting for the amendment was Edward Leigh (above), the Conservative MP for Gainsborough and a member of the assembly. He referred to the case of Kerrie Wooltorton, a 26- year-old from Norwich who died from poisoning in 2007 after her living will prevented doctors from resuscitating her.

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

Council of Europe

The Council of Europe was set up in 1949 to further integration by harmonising human rights laws among European states, although it is unable to pass laws itself.

Its resolution on euthanasia will help define the principles that should govern the application of living wills in its member states.

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.

It came a year after the European Court asserted that there is no right to euthanasia or assisted suicide under the European Convention. The resolution should also have an impact on a forthcoming decision by the European Court in the case of Koch vs Germany, concerning a ban on assisted suicide in Germany.

Comments - One Response

  1. oliverrr says:

    Europe is forming a united front against EuthaNAZIa – This is good for the patients’ class and bad for the medical doctors’ class.

    Away with the medical doctors’ class, once and forever! The patients’ class is the citizens’ first duty. Patients’ class through thick and thin.

    See http://spkpfh.de/Europe%20is%20forming%20a%20united%20front%20against%20EuthaNAZIa.htm

Leave a Reply

latest news

Greater trust in the synod process

October 8th, 2015 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS

One of the four synod presidents speaks of a more...

Cardinal Nichols speaks up at synod for refugee families

October 8th, 2015 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS

Cardinal Vincent Nichols has said the Synod on the Family...

Catholic Patriarchate of Jerusalem calls for negotiations amid increasing violence

October 8th, 2015 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS

“Once again the flames of despair, fuelled by hate, represent...

Families are the net for fishers of men, Pope says

October 7th, 2015 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS

In this morning’s general audience address, the Holy Father said...

Social media

Latest edition


exclusively in the paper

  • SCO EXCLUSIVE: Bishop John Keenan of Paisley says the World Meeting of Families was an eye opener.
  • Cross-party group on religious freedom set up in the Scottish Parliament with the help of Aid to the Church in Need.
  • Strong support at National Assembly of Catholic School Parents.
  • Permanent deacon ordained for Dunkeld Diocese at vocations Mass.
  • Fr James Crampsey SJ, Superior of the Jesuit community at Sacred Heart in Edinburgh, gave this year’s Gillis Lecture

Previous editions

Previous editions of the Scottish Catholic Observer newspaper are only available to subscribed Members. To download previous editions of the paper, please subscribe.

note: registered members only.

Read the SCO