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Refusing Life-Prolonging Medical Treatment and the ECHR

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Publication details

JournalOxford Journal of Legal Studies
DateAccepted/In press - 3 Apr 2018
DateE-pub ahead of print - 24 Apr 2018
DatePublished (current) - 1 Jun 2018
Issue number2
Number of pages29
Pages (from-to)299-327
Early online date24/04/18
Original languageEnglish


This article considers the content of the right to refuse life-prolonging medical treatment under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), as well as the supervision by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) of domestic legal regimes for refusing life-prolonging treatment. I argue, employing doctrinal and philosophical analyses, that developments in the Convention jurisprudence with regard to the protection of private life under article 8 ECHR imply a substantively extensive right to refuse life-prolonging treatment, both contemporaneously and in advance. Moreover, I suggest that there is sufficient consensus among Council of Europe Member States on the right to refuse life-prolonging treatment to engage ECtHR supervision of states’ legal frameworks for such refusals. In addition, or in the alternative, I advance that the Strasbourg court may scrutinise Member States’ legal arrangements for refusals of life-prolonging treatment in virtue of the positive obligations to secure respect for private life that inhere in article 8 ECHR.

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