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Report No. 196

Lord Goff then quotes the crucial reasoning of Lord Bingham as to why stoppage of life support is not an offence. Bingham M. R. stated:

"Why is it that a doctor who gives his patient a lethal injection which kills him commits an unlawful act and indeed is guilty of murder, whereas a doctor who, by discontinuing life-support, allows his patient to die, may not act unlawfull.- and will not do so, if he commits no breach of duty to his patient? Prof. Glanville Williams has suggested (See his Textbook of Criminal Law, 2 nd Ed (1983) p 282) that the reason is that what the doctor does when he switches off a life support machine, "is in substance not an act but an omission to struggle", and that "the omission is not a breach of duty by the doctor, because he is not obliged to continue in a hopeless case."

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

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