ECHR Grand Chamber throws out decision that permitted assisted suicide
What’s at Stake
- Promoting the right to life from conception to natural death
- Protecting the weak and vulnerable in society
Switzerland is one of only four countries in Europe to allow doctor-prescribed death. However, it is only possible for individuals to obtain lethal drugs in certain circumstances after a medical examination and prescription from a doctor. These safeguards are designed to protect the weak and vulnerable. But when one woman couldn’t get any doctor to prescribe the fatal drugs she desired, she launched a case against Switzerland that threatened to remove these safeguards.
Alda Gross didn’t suffer from any fatal disease, so doctors would not prescribe her life-ending drugs. Refusing to accept this restriction, Gross took her case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). A panel voted by four votes to three that Switzerland’s law banning lethal poison in such circumstances violated Article 8 of the Convention (regarding the right to respect for private and family life) because the court considered the law vague. This ruling threatened to weaken Switzerland’s safeguards around life-ending drugs.
It later came to light that Gross had already taken her own life using the very poison that she was trying to secure through her claim. In an apparent attempt to keep the lawsuit going after the woman’s death, no one notified the Court or others involved. Upon learning this, the Grand Chamber of the ECHR threw out the case In September 2014, making the earlier ruling null and void.
ADF International was given permission to present legal arguments to the court throughout the process, submitting that there is no right to assisted suicide or euthanasia under the European Convention on Human Rights.
“Because the government has an obligation to protect life, not assist in promoting death, we are pleased to see this bad decision thrown out despite the extraordinary circumstances,” said ADF International senior legal counsel Paul Coleman. “The lawsuit’s claim that a person should be able to do whatever he or she pleases does not override national laws rightfully designed to protect the weak and vulnerable.”
Our Role in the Case
ADF International was given permission to present legal arguments to the Chamber and Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights.