Finally conclusions were arrived at based on the findings of the work. This work establishes that the courts have not accorded importance to ethical principles, while providing their rulings on euthanasia cases.
Medical law can be regarded as a melange that derives its basis from several branches of the law. Previously the correlation betwixt medicine and law had been characterised by mutual deference. In the past, medical decisions were considered to be the exclusive preserve of the clinicians.1 Currently, the courts have been willing, to a greater extent, to entertain challenges to the decisions taken by the members of the medical profession.
As such, in Chester v Afshar,2 Steyn LJ declared that paternalism had no room in medical law. At the same time, the doctors were also grateful and relieved that the courts were resolving cases involving intricate issues of ethics.3 As such, judicial activism has made inroads into the ethical issues surrounding the cases pertaining to euthanasia.
With regard to assisted dying, the British Medical Association espouses the following principles. First, doctors should help the patients to obtain a good death. however, such acts have to comply with the law. Second, the patients should be permitted to control the dying process, to the extent possible, and the attending doctors have to admit the views of the patients.4
Third, the autonomy accorded to patients, albeit, important, cannot ride roughshod over other principles, and it is indispensable to arrive at an appropriate balance. Fourth, the personal choices of individuals should not be permitted to cause harm to others. Fifth, the law precludes the deliberate causing of premature death. In this context, the British Medical Association, firmly believes that the intentional causing of death is contrary to the ethos of medicine. Sixth, there is a basic difference between deliberately causing death, and withdrawing or withholding treatment.