Gross v. Switzerland: the Swiss regulation of assisted suicide infringes Article 8 ECHR – 14 May 2013
One month ago the ECtHR held, by majority, that there has been a violation of art. 8 ECHR because the Swiss regulation of assisted suicide was too vague as to the extent of the right to obtain a lethal dose for assisted suicide. The decision is not final.
The case concerned the complaint of an elderly woman, Alda Gross, who wished to end her life, but did not suffer from a clinical illness, that she was unable to obtain the Swiss authorities’ permission to be provided with a lethal dose of a drug in order to commit suicide.
The Court held, in particular, that Swiss law, while providing the possibility of obtaining a lethal dose of a drug on medical prescription, did not provide sufficient guidelines ensuring clarity as to the extent of this right. This uncertain situation was likely to have caused Ms Gross a considerable degree of anguish. At the same time, the Court did not take a stance on the question of whether she should have been granted the possibility to acquire a lethal dose of medication allowing her to end her life.
The Court departed from its previous case-law by deciding to analyse Mrs Gross’s case from a new (and unexpected) perspective: that of legal certainty. The Court held that, since the Swiss medical ethical guidelines apply only to patients suffering from an incurable and deathly illness and do not have the formal quality of law, the situation of people in Mrs Gross’ state is not regulated by Swiss law. This lack of regulation is likely to cause “a chilling effect on doctors” and a “considerable degree of anguish” on people in the applicant’s state.
For the decision in full, in English: Gross v. Switzerland
For a comment of the decision, see : Strasbourg Observers
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