House of Commons portcullis
House of Commons
Session 1999-2000
Internet Publications
Other Bills before Parliament
Arrangement of Clauses (Contents)

Medical Treatment (Prevention of Euthanasia) Bill
 
 EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM
 
  The purpose of the Bill is to clarify and amend the law in relation to the withdrawal or withholding of medical treatment or food and fluid (howsoever delivered) from patients by specifying that it is unlawful to do so with the purpose of causing the death of the patient.
 
  The Bill makes it unlawful and therefore an offence to withdraw or withhold medical treatment or food and fluid (howsoever delivered) if the purpose in so doing, or one of the purposes in so doing, is to hasten or otherwise cause the death of the patient.
 
  Clause 1 of the Bill achieves this by reference to the purpose or purposes of the conduct ("actions" or "omissions") of the person responsible for the care of the patient. The Bill uses the word "purpose" rather than "intention" because the meaning of the word "intention" is disputed by legal experts and is sometimes extended to include side-effects which are outside the scope of what is a person's purpose, that is, which are not included in that person's purposes or in what he or she is trying to achieve.
 
  In forbidding decisions to withdraw or withhold medical treatment or food or fluid with a purpose of hastening or in any other way causing death, the Bill leaves undisturbed decisions to withdraw or withhold medical treatment or food and fluid where those decisions are made without such purpose but rather because that treatment would not be of benefit to the health of the patient or would be too burdensome to the patient.
 
  Thus the Bill does not require doctors officiously and inappropriately to strive to keep dying patients alive. Nor does it affect decisions to administer treatment which will or may have the side-effect of shortening life. The Bill deals only with deliberate "omissions" rather than positive "actions". It would apply to omissions (withdrawing or withholding treatment) the same test as the law applies to positive actions (administering treatment). Whether the decision is to withdraw, withhold or administer treatment, the essential requirement is that any foreseen hastening of death must not be intended, that is, must not be included within the purpose or purposes of the decision.
 
 European Convention on Human Rights
 
  The provisions of the Bill are consistent with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that "no-one shall be deprived of his life intentionally".
 
 
continue
 
House of Commons home page Houses of Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries

© Parliamentary copyright 1999
Prepared 18 January 2000