Three European courts grapple with end-of-life dilemmas

Wed Jun 25, 2014 1:07pm EDT
 
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By Tom Heneghan

PARIS (Reuters) - Three European courts stepped carefully around delicate end-of-life issues on Wednesday, with one rejecting assisted suicide, another delaying it and a third acquitting a doctor from charges he murdered dying patients.

The varied rulings by Britain's Supreme Court, the European Court of Human Rights and a regional French court reflected the difficulty of drawing a clear legal line between aiding terminal patients to die in peace and committing murder.

In Europe, Belgium, Luxemburg, Netherlands and Switzerland allow assisted suicide, and opinion polls show broad support in several other countries.

But opposition - especially from religious groups - is strong and countries such as France considering legalization often find the issue to be a political minefield.

Britain's Supreme Court judges ruled seven-to-two against appeals to allow assisted suicide from a paralyzed car crash victim and the widow of a man who had locked-in syndrome.

The European Court of Human Rights, responding to a last-ditch appeal by the parents of a tetraplegic man in a coma, told France not to end his life support despite a ruling allowing that by the country's highest administrative court on Tuesday.

Also in France, a court in the southwestern city of Pau acquitted a doctor of charges of murdering seven dying patients by lethal injection. He said he did it to end their suffering and some victims' relatives testified in court in his favor.

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