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Report No. 196

Lord Goff continued:

"I must, however, stress, at this point, that the law draws a distinction between cases in which a doctor decides not to provide, or to continue to provide, for his patient treatment or care which could or might prolong his life and those in which he decides, for example by administering a lethal drug, actively to bring the patient's life to an end. As I have already indicated, the former may be lawful, either because the doctor is giving effect to his patent's wishes by withholding the treatment or care, or even in circumstances in which (on principles which I shall describe), the patient is incapacitated from stating whether or not he gives his consent.

But it is not lawful for a doctor to administer a drug to his patient to bring about his death, even though that course is prompted by a humanitarian desire to end his suffering, however great that suffering may be. See Reg vs. Cox (unreported) (18th Sept. 1992). Euthanasia is not lawful at common law; but that result could, I believe, only be achieved by legislation."

Medical Treatment to Terminally Ill Patients (Protection of Patients and Medical Practitioners) Back

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