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Europe: landmark resolution rejects euthanasia

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), has adopted a Resolution outlawing euthanasia. The Resolution states the principle 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.”

The resolution, on 25 January, marks the first time in decades, that euthanasia has been so clearly rejected by a European political institution.  It is likely to have a direct impact on an upcoming judgement of the European Court in a case concerning the ban of assisted suicide in Germany.

The European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ)  has welcomed the resolution.  Dr Grégor Puppinck, Director of the ECLJ said: “this Resolution is a clear indication that the growing majority of Europeans is opposed to euthanasia. The many abuses occurring in the countries allowing euthanasia are alarming and constitute violations of true human rights. It is convincing that euthanasia must always be prohibited. The small number of European States allowing euthanasia shall review their legislation according to the principles set forth by the PACE.”

Even if this resolution is not legally binding on Member states, it has a real influence on the legislative process and on the judicial process, especially on the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights.

On the legislative process, the Assembly “recommends that the Committee of Ministers [the 47 national ambassadors in Strasbourg] bring the Resolution to the attention of member states, with a request for implementation.”

On the judicial process, this Resolution will have an impact on the European Court of Human Rights, in particular on its future decision in the case Koch v Germany. In this case, the Court is mainly called to decide whether or not the ban of “assisted suicide” in Germany respects the Convention. In this case, the applicant, Mr Ulrich Koch, complains for the refusal by the German administration to give to his late wife authorization to obtain a lethal substance in order to commit suicide. The Resolution of PACE shall have an important impact on this case.

Just a year ago, on 20 January  2011, the European Court delivered another judgment (Haas versus Switzerland) on assisted suicide. Although admitting a sort of right to self-suicide, the Court denied the existence of a right to assisted suicide stemming from the European Convention and guaranteed by the State; but still, the Court did not ruled –as the PACE does now- that assisted suicide or euthanasia is a violation per se of the right to life guaranteed by the European Convention of Human Rights.

Mr Luca Volonte', chairman of EPP Group in PACE, said: “last year we obtained a great victory reaffirming the right of medical practitioners to conscientious objection; today we have also fought a good battle and we have won, thank God, against a real ideological tyranny of culture of death (...); now euthanasia is completely banned from PACE”.

Source: ECLJ