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Monday, 25 March, 2002, 10:39 GMT
The right to die: Was it the right decision?
A woman paralysed from the neck down has been told by the High Court that she has the right to have her life support machine turned off.

The woman, who cannot be identified, has been paralysed since rupturing a blood vessel in her spine a year ago.

Her condition is stable, but her chances of improvement are put at under 1%.

Now she has been told, in a landmark judgement, that doctors do not have the right to refuse her request.

The ruling by the judge, Dame Elizabeth Butler Sloss, upholds the right of mentally competent patients to decide the course of their medical treatment.

Do you think that the High Court made the right decision?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your reaction


If God is the only one who can decide to take her life, then you are saying God is the cause of this lady's pain and suffering

Kevin, UK
If God is the only one who can decide to take her life, then you are saying God is the cause of this lady's pain and suffering. Surely this is the work of Satan, not God. And if it is Satan, then wouldn't God want to save this lady from pain and suffering by curing her? It seems to me, God doesn't care about this woman just like he doesn't care about my brother or anyone else. So If God created me, should I tell my father she cheated on him? There is only one thing I truly own in this world. My life. Will you take my right to own my life away as well? If I want to die. I will.
Kevin, UK

I am so happy for you, Miss B. I wish you peace and joy for next life. For those who object - please remember you're not the one who is suffering!
Christine Mayhew, England

I feel strongly that this is a victory for compassion and for humanity. I hope to God that it sets both a legal and moral precedent.
Russell Hope, United Kingdom, EU


We certainly have the right to refuse medical treatment and let nature take its course

Marcel de Vries, Holland
I believe it was the right decision. I don't know about having the right to die but we certainly have the right to refuse medical treatment and let nature take its course. And that seems to be what this woman wants and it's her right. If anyone ever asked me to switch off their life support machine I would do that, and I would expect anyone to do it for me should I ever be in such a situation.
Marcel de Vries, Holland

Freedom is a right we all have, and freedom from Pain or suffering is a right that every individual should have if they choose to do so.
Bob Bazley, USA

In response to the comments made by John Bailey, USA, I do agree that no judicial system should be based on any religious bias or beliefs, although in this case I do not believe it was. As for reverence for human life, surely no matter what race, religion, beliefs, any moral individual regards human life with respect? I do believe every individual of sound mind has the right to make their own decisions based on their own beliefs. As a Catholic/Christian I take offence to my own belief being referred to as an 'imaginary deity'.
Emma Beveridge, Scotland


I am so saddened by the fact that science has gone so far that it can now be torturous

Steve, England
I am so saddened by the fact that science has gone so far that it can now be torturous. Things have gone too far. Contrary to what some might think, if it were down to nature this lady would have died a long time ago. It is science that has kept her alive and without technology she would not be able to breathe. It is not God who has got her into this position, but humans. If they have the right to do this then it needs to be controlled. Patient's wishes should be paramount and if a patient wishes to die then who has the right to say no. I am astounded that this breakthrough has not happened before. If I ever get into a position were I wish to die, I really hope things have changed so that my wishes are carried out also so that it is just for all concerned. Rest in peace.
Steve, England

Whatever happened to 'No man is an island....' and the notion that I am diminished by the death of another? Those with a totally selfish and anti-life mentality are using this tragic and moving case to push their agenda for a loveless and merciless world. How soon will someone else's 'right to die' become my 'duty to die'? Thousands are euthanised in Holland without their approval, and depression and simple 'weariness of life' are grounds for death. God save us from this reign of Death in our culture.
George J. Bell, UK

I would not like to be the doctor who pulls the plug.
Paul Padley, UK

Whilst I empathise with Ms B's point of view, I think that today's ruling is disgraceful. I do not agree that people have the right to choose when they die. The repercussions of this ruling could be that the NHS withdraws treatment to people in need - after all, wouldn't it save money and cut waiting lists? Society should be supporting vulnerable, depressed people. Many people of sound mind attempt to kill themselves every year and we don't tell them to go and take a running jump. I have personal experience of severe disability - it's not easy, in fact it's very difficult, but everyone's life has value. I fail to understand how Ms B says that she doesn't want to switch off the ventilator herself as that would be suicide - when in fact that's what this ruling is - let's call a spade a spade. The plain fact here is that the judge has ruled that a disabled person's life can't be worth living - would we really let a 21 year old man of sound mind withdraw treatment so as not to recover from an overdose?
Anna Hornsey, UK


If I put myself in the position of this woman, I feel that I would have wished the same for myself

Scott, Vienna
If I put myself in the position of this woman, I feel that I would have wished the same for myself. How can anyone else comment, or make a decision for her who has not suffered the same anguish, ignorance, endurance and tolerance as this woman has had to go through over the last year, and all because doctors did not, and could not, respect the wishes of a sane and competent human being? This ruling is fair, just and reasonable given the circumstances, bringing hope for those who suffer at the hands of others.
Scott, Vienna

It worries me that this ruling has been made by Dame Elizabeth Butler Sloss partly on the assumption that the patient would be better off dead - can she really make this judgement? It also worries me that the patient refused not only the option of committing suicide but also of being weaned off the ventilator - still it has been decided that death is definitely what the woman wants.
Becca, UK

I won't argue with someone's rights over what they do with their body whether alive or dead. However has any one thought about the distress a decision like this can cause family members? My father had kidney failure and received good and caring treatment but two or three times when he was feeling very down and ill toyed with the idea of discontinuing his treatment. While I understood how he felt, it was very distressing for me to have to go into all the details about how he would die, so I just ask any one who is contemplating ending their life by choice in this manner to give their family some thought.
Diane Rayburn, England

We need to look at such matters outside religious blinkers-what right has anyone to try to impose their beliefs and to say that this person should live in her tragic condition - would they be content with just lying in a hospital bed for the rest of their life....
Huw, Wales


Anyone who is against euthanasia obviously hasn't experienced such a situation themselves

Chris Jenkins, England
About 14 years ago, when I was 16, my father contracted cancer of the brain. The doctors found it was malignant and that he would die in around 12 months. Previously he was a very fit 52-year-old weighing 14 stone having run a marathon only months earlier. Over the course of the year he spent in hospital he wasted away to 6 stone, practically a skeleton. Before he lost the power to speak (8 months before he died) he asked my mother to kill him as he could see what it was doing to her. She didn't tell me until afterwards, but said that she wanted to do it but couldn't. So thanks to the ridiculous laws in this country at the time I had to spend that year going to the hospital to watch my father waste away when I should have been revising for exams at school. This has affected my life ever since. If I had have had the choice I would gladly have done the deed for him, and saved the suffering all of us went through that year. Anyone who is against euthanasia obviously hasn't experienced such a situation themselves, so should keep their personal views personal as they have no relevance to anyone other than their selfish selves.
Chris Jenkins, England

To me it's quite easy - we see the obvious advantages in putting suffering pets 'to sleep'. Why then, should some patient being of sound mind, if not body, not be permitted? Should we say that the rules are different for humans? Quite the contrary - we are the only living animals with the power to reason.
Jon, Belgium, Belgium

Where is freedom when you cannot chose if you want to die? Everyone else can decide to kill themselves, why not when you need some help to do it? It is discrimination!
Marie, France


The decision of the Court was in my opinion correct and would have been made with considerable thought

Wayne Spring, UK
The decision of the Court was in my opinion correct and would have been made with considerable thought. The case of Mrs. Pretty and Mrs. B are on the face similar, i.e. they both want the right to die. However, Mrs. Pretty wanted her husband to assist her, which would have been as decided by the courts as murder. No decision on this issue would have been dealt with lightly and all issues would have been discussed. One can only hope that Mrs. B's life is ended with dignity. This decision should not allow the floodgates to open as every case ought to be decided on its own merits. The courts are not acting as Gods and nor do the doctors they are only after consideration granting a wish of an individual of sound mind.
Wayne Spring, UK

I'm very pleased for this woman and I hope her case goes someway to helping that of Diana Pretty's.
wendy, UK

All patients have the right to refuse treatment and even to insist treatment is discontinued, although this will inevitably lead to death. However, no one - patient, doctor or judge - has the right to make any doctor terminate the life of a patient by their actions
Ron, UK

There is a difference between going out and killing a healthy human being and keeping a seriously injured and suffering human alive using artificial means. Medical science should be used to reduce suffering, not extend it.
Richard Ball, UK

I, personally, have no point of reference from which to make any judgements on Miss B's case. I have never suffered pain that would cause me to consider death, nor do I need assistance to live as Ms B does. Lachlan's point regarding the right to refuse treatment (or assistance in Ms B's case) versus actively killing one's self is very pertinent. This right of choice, the freedom with which to forge one's own destiny, I would say, is one of the tenets of our society.
Simon (expat), USA


I think if it were me and I was in that much pain then I would probably do the same thing

Paul Stevens, England
I think if the person is generally suffering and if it would be cruel to let him or her suffer by allowing that person to live but only if all other means are thought through and/or exhausted. I think if it were me and I was in that much pain then I would probably do the same thing on the basis that we've all got to die some day.
Paul Stevens, England

I don't believe in the right to die. However as someone forced to endure apathy and depression brought on by supposedly life-preserving medication I fully support the right of a sound-minded person to refuse medical treatment. I stopped taking the medication and am still happy and healthy 6 years on.
Alan J. Brown, Scotland

I believe the right decision was made today. The woman has the right to refuse treatment, whatever the outcome of that may be. Just think: as little as 30 years ago she would have died as a result of her trauma and while medical science has made leaps and bounds in some area it also prolongs life when there is no quality of life worth living. You would not treat a dog in this way. This ruling will protect doctors because as long as doctors follow guidelines and rulings of both the courts and the GMC then they have done nothing wrong.
Pauline Batt, England


I hope she will wait and think about what she really wants

J. M. Shepherd, USA
I wonder if Miss B is confused at this time. Although she wishes to "die" or simply perhaps 'be free from her body', she is also concerned about how the trigger mechanism will affect her family. She does not want her family to think she committed suicide. Splitting hairs here, it seems in these situations that one needs to either choose between the right to commit suicide or the right to be killed. I hope she will not choose to place someone else in what should be her position of ultimate responsibility. I hope she will wait and think about what she really wants.
J. M. Shepherd, USA

The judge's ruling is absolutely right. If we are free people with free choice then we should be allowed to express the ultimate choice, that between life and death. The right to choose when your life should end should be up to you and no-one else.
Barry, UK

I don't believe that this case is about the right to die. It is about the right for an adult of sound mind to refuse any medical treatment even though they may die as a result. Doctors do not have the right to administer treatment to people who have decided they do not want it.
Louise Erhardt, England

A very sensible and humane decision. None of us who are able-bodied can consider the pain and suffering of someone who is completely paralysed and unable to do anything except lay there. It takes a woman judge to show compassion and come to a sensible decision.
Barbara, England


A person's life is not his or her own

Aaron Baker, Canada
A person's life is not his or her own. They have no right to end it. For a doctor to assist in any way whatsoever in the demise of a human being would be a direct breach of their oath and an act of murder.
Aaron Baker, Canada

One person has commented here that they have a disability and they want to live life to the full and another has said that it's god's right to choose. There is one fundamental point in this whole case which covers those two points - she cannot breathe without the help of a machine! How can she live life to the full being connected to a machine! Surely god has already decided. All she is asking is for the doctors to stop intervening by switching the machine off and then god will make his decision.
Anita, UK

What a brave lady! The right decision was made. Informed Consent is the key. As Doctors we cannot impose treatment that is not wanted. Without informed consent, this treatment becomes assault. We may disagree with a particular patient's choice, but I would always defend a patient's right to make that choice. Every day I see patients who choose to smoke, or who do not take their angina medication, and I know that this is going to lead to further health problems. But I have no power, and neither should I have, to force them to take that treatment. Ventilation is no different. I agree that a temporary depressive illness may affect a patient's ability to give informed consent, but by all accounts, this brave lady was as rational as anybody could wish to be.
Nasir Nabi, Newcastle, UK

Despite this ruling few doctors in similar situations will accept the individual responsibility of withdrawing treatment from a patient who could later be diagnosed as chronically depressed. The doctors would then be put in the invidious position of having to defend their actions - and possibly even face murder charges. Doctors need protection in cases like this. That said the High Court is an extreme and expensive form of protection.
Robert Crisp, UK


A sane and sensible decision

James Miller, UK
At last a sane and sensible decision from a British court on this issue but what about Mrs Pretty who has been denied this right and forced to go to the European Courts, where is the consistency in this? Am I being naive? I don't see any great difference between a doctor turning off a life support machine and a husband administering a lethal drug to his willing wife in a controlled manner.
James Miller, UK

My heart goes out to this woman and I wish her peace and joy in this life, or the next.
Paul Charters, England

I would like to congratulate Ms B on this verdict, I hope that now she and her loved ones get the peace they deserve.
Yvonne, The Netherlands


Thank God common sense has prevailed in this tragic case

Paul, UK
Thank God common sense has prevailed in this tragic case. It's about time the law was changed so that no other mentally competent person has to go through this drawn out process again.
Paul, UK

No one should give ruling/decision for someone to die in such cases, but to just wait for her turn to come. Unless in cases of murder where the court will give its ruling.
Israel Mudanda, Zimbabwe

It seems impossible to believe that anyone should be denied the right to die at a time of their choosing, even if they are disabled, perhaps even more if they are disabled. A well man is legally able to commit suicide so why should a sick person be prevented doing so. It seems that our laws are still carrying the baggage from the days when a religion could deny individual freedom.
G.S. Brown, New Zealand


I believe that people should have the right to die but that it should be ruled by the court

Nicola Allen, UK
Having worked on numerous wards and treated patients with motor neurone disease and other progressive, non-rehabilitable diseases I believe that people should have the right to die but that it should be ruled by the court. This will protect the doctors and make their decision easier.
Nicola Allen, UK

She should be allowed, as well as all of us, to decide if we want to live or die! Suicide is no longer a crime, and while doctors have a duty to sustain life, in these kind of situations A person of sound mind should be allowed to make their own decisions, including a decision on their own life.
Kaari, Sweden

The patient should have the right to die if that is their choice and free will. We have the freedom of choice in what we do in all other aspects of our lives so why not this? The choice should not lay with some third party that doesn't feel any of the physical or mental anguish of these patients' conditions... It's time these ridiculous laws were changed...
Ash Newell, USA, Texas (Ex Pat)


There should be no debate; this lady wishes to die with dignity

Pat, Canada
There should be no debate; this lady wishes to die with dignity. She is fully aware that there is no possible chance of any improvement. I for one would opt for the right to die. There is no hope, so be merciful and abide by this lady's wishes. May you find peace.
Pat, Canada

The patient should have the right to decide whether he/she lives or die.
Meenu, Australia

If one who is healthy has the right to jump out of the building ... why shouldn't the one who's in hospital bed has the right to decide as well?
Panarat, Thailand

She should be allowed to set her affairs in order and then do with her life as she wishes, so long as it harms no other.
Kaitlyn, USA

You cannot persuade me that it is wrong to allow someone who is suffering to choose to end his or her life. Mental and emotional pain is as bad as physical pain; just because the body can still function does not mean it should be forced to. To deprive someone of the right to end their life under conditions that they find unacceptable is tantamount to forcing them to endure torture.
James, Netherlands


I believe that no one has the right to decide whether they should live or die except for God

Jennifer, USA
I believe that no one has the right to decide whether they should live or die except for God. He created you and only he may end a person's life. Especially since this women is only paralysed. She isn't brain dead or in a coma. She can still breathe and think like a normal person. I believe that she is in denial and so depressed of her condition that she would rather choose to give up rather than be an inspiration to other people and be a fighter. May everyone pray for her that she will be guided in the right path.
Jennifer, USA

Nobody should be allowed to decide to die. Everyone should help others to live as long as the nature calls.
Ghulam Rasool, Pakistan

It is a sad case which will never be settled from a social standpoint. This woman should be allowed to die if that is her wish. It has been medically acknowledged that her prognosis is less than 1%, and she is on a ventilator. It should be her decision. Over here, we have already been through this. The result was that it is legally wrong. To enstill this in the general public, they made an example out of the only doctor who was willing to raise the question of life or death. Personally, I think they made an example because otherwise if doctor assisted deaths were legal; the large insurance companies would have to pick up the tab.
Daalf Nelsen, United States

At minimum the terminally ill patient or the person with the prospects of a very dismal quality of life should have the liberty to exercise their autonomy in choosing to end their lives. Involuntary euthanasia is a more difficult ethical issue because the patient is not making the actual decision. But the issue of quality of life should be a genuine consideration when allowing people to legally end their own lives.
Chuck Sullivan, USA

I too have a spine injury! However, given time, I came out of the deep depression which comes soon after the occurrence. And in that depth of depression one cannot see clearly. So it is a shame, that one might in its depth, decide to die. As now I have come to challenge the disability, and live life to its fullest, regardless!
Jerald Meiers, U.S.A.


A person should be allowed to decide if their quality of life is so diminished that it's no longer a fair trade

Gretchen , USA
The patient should clearly have the right. A person should be allowed to decide if their quality of life is so diminished that it's no longer a fair trade. If a person has some degenerative, incurable disease or condition perhaps death would indeed be the preferable fate.
Gretchen , USA

The right to die should be hers alone, I know if I was in her shoes I would demand to be left to make my own decision
Willy, USA

Yes under strictly controlled conditions with independent evaluation to ensure the certainty that that person wants to die - preferably then agreed by a judge or someone similar.
Michael Peel, Netherlands

I fully support euthanasia. There are times when an animals life is valued more than a human, if a dog or any other animal is suffering it is put out of its misery, so what is the difference. Why should humans be made to suffer with terminal illnesses?
Cathy J, Australia

It's a 'no-win' situation for anyone involved. One has to feel sympathy for the judge who is being asked to rule on this.
Nigel, UK


Miss B has the "right" to refuse treatment - as opposed to let someone actively murder her

Lachlan McLean, Law Student, Cambridge University
I have said in the Diane Pretty Talking Point that suicide is wrong, and received an exceptionally harsh reaction. In this case, I still believe that it is morally wrong for someone to "choose" to die, but the legal difference is Miss B has the "right" to refuse treatment - as opposed to let someone actively murder her. This is a tragic case but she would ordinarily die of natural causes. Is this distinction legalistic? Probably. Call me a hypocrite! But whereas the law cannot distinguish between refusing a cold medicine and an oxygen mask, it can distinguish between withdrawing treatment and active homicide. I pray that Miss B can, if it's possible, realise her life still has some value.
Lachlan McLean, Law Student, Cambridge University

I am shocked that a nation of your sophistication would be so cruel and unkind to a paralysed woman wishing to be disconnected from life support. It is a shock, really. England is considered to be a bastion of social advance, indiscriminate compassion, and moral conscience. This scenario would never exist in an American hospital. Our society would guarantee her right to die, and a peaceful death at that. Self-determination is a tenet of humanity. How can you people not know that?
Benjamin Havemann, M.D., USA

I have just had to watch my Grandmother suffer for over two years and slowly die from Motor Neurone Syndrome, after months of not being able to move or talk. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do, knowing how much she wanted to die, but not being able to help. To be a prisoner in your own body is torture and a person with a sound mind should be able to decide when to be released. If they were pet animals they would be put to sleep, that being the most humane thing to do. Why do we force people to suffer in such an inhumane manner?
Kellie Large, Britain


People who are terminally ill and in pain should be allowed to die when they choose to

Louise, Sydney Australia
People who are terminally ill and in pain should be allowed to die when they choose to. They should have the right to choose euthanasia. However, safeguards should be in place to make sure it's the dying person's choice and no-one else's. At least three doctors signatures should be required; two to confirm the person is terminally ill and the other should have psychiatric training and have done an assessment.
Louise, Sydney Australia

Euthanasia is a crime, and a crime that can be induced by unscrupulous people. I guess its just one persons retort to malpracticing Doctors who couldn't be sued!
Bj Pinkerton, USA

The issue of who has the right to decide whether a person lives or dies will always be emotive. There are two sides to every coin. Health care professionals are in the business of saving lives and so this presents them with an ethical dilemma. The woman appears to be psychologically sound although I understand that she has displayed ambivalence on several occasions when her ventilator could have been turned off. Every case needs to be looked at on an individual basis and the decision should be based on its merits. This woman's condition will not improve and if she is weaned from the ventilator as suggested, she will be sedated but have no control over her pain. If health care professionals are to engage in true holistic care then they must also respect the individual choices that patients make however difficult or conflicting it is with their own personal beliefs.
Karen, UK/USA

Just as you have the right to live I think you have just as much right to die. It is stupid, selfish and a breach of human rights to deny someone of the right to die.
Joe Wetherill, UK

This is a really sad case. The lady in question clearly is fully aware of what she asks. Doctors can't be allowed to play God, and keep her alive just because they have the knowledge to do so.
Kevin Corcoran, England

It is very hard to determine because it may transform the decisions of life for all future patients suffering from same conditions and shall be going to change the history of medical science. As a human being we don't have right to decide whether one should live or die. It is our duty to defend with all our efforts to preserve the human life.
Sohail Qureshi, Pakistan


One should always give faith a fighting chance

Sonali, Canada
As a physician and as a human being I have been taught to respect life and an individuals right to existence. I believe that the woman's lawyer is not entitled to decide whether she should live or die. I think one should strive to give her life the dignity only something as precious as life deserves. Doctors can't play god but they can at least help a woman to make a decision for herself. One should always give faith a fighting chance.
Sonali, Canada

After a work accident where I sustained serious neck injuries and was paralysed for seven months left side, now 5 years later I'm trying to rebuild my life, at times it seemed hopeless but I must try. I have frequent relapses and sadly I am now experiencing feelings of loss on my right side. One day at a time Miss B. It's a long wait while worthwhile technology is found that can help, given time you may find a quality of life better than today; isn't it worth a try? Life is ALL we have.
Ray P, Denmark

Surely Dame Butler-Sloss will rule in favour of Miss B, having considered in whose best interests it would be to keep this woman alive. Let's hope she is able to give this woman some dignity and respect and let her refuse treatment.
Vicky, England

If this was a case about 'right to die' then I do not believe that we should intervene. But surely this is a case of the right to refuse treatment (which may, or may not, lead to death) and we all have a right to refuse treatment.
Peter, England

In war, my death and that of many thousand others is at the whim of a few corrupt power mongers. No individual worth. My Life and that of many thousand others can rest on the profit motives of drugs companies. No individual worth. If I want a say in my life, it becomes a sacred gift which I have no rights over. What hypocrisy.
Dave, England


How dare right-to-lifers inflict pain on people who want to die

Nathan Ross, Australia
Working in England as a live-in carer, I assumed the right to refuse treatment was a given thing. One client, with me in the room, asked his doctor to stop his medication because it was only his medication that was keeping him alive. His doctor did this and he died 3 days later. He finally ended 40 years of medication and chronic pain which could no longer be controlled with pain killers. I was happy for him when he died. He was finally out of pain. How dare right-to-lifers inflict pain on people who want to die, just to keep their own conscience clear. It sickens me.
Nathan Ross, Australia

If a person has been kept alive by artificial means, and they wish those means to be withdrawn then I believe they have that right. However, if it were the case that the doctors would have to perform some action that would actively terminate the patient's life (as opposed to withdrawing support), I believe nobody should be allowed to choose that option.
Chris, Scotland


I think any person of sound mind should be given the right to choose whether or not they live or die

Kirsty Mackenzie, Scotland
I think any person of sound mind should be given the right to choose whether or not they live or die. If Miss B was able to do so herself she would probably have hastened her death already. The person is the only one who can rule and control their life and body, and doctors; paternalism and religious bias always seem to get in the way of people making their own choices.
Kirsty Mackenzie, Scotland

I strongly believe the individual has the right to decide whether they wish to continue with their life. I appreciate that doctors have an obligation to try to prolong patients' lives but if a person feels he or she no longer has an adequate "quality of life", then the doctors cannot be allowed to overrule this.
In an already overstretched NHS service, wouldn't the taxpayers money and doctors' time have been better spent on other patients and this woman would be allowed to end her life with dignity rather than the media circus this has turned into?
Sarah Kerr, England


The right to end ones corporal existence is basic

Marcus Lloyd, US
Only you should have the right to decide whether to live or die. No-one has the right to play god but if this woman wasn't in hospital she would be able to take her own life by other ways and means, why not give her wish and allow her to die in the less painful way possible with the aid of trained doctors who know what they are doing, it's her choice after all
Adam, England

If I am to be responsible for my life I am responsible for my death.
Rodney Lobo, Norway

If you can't control the outcome of your own life, then who can? The government? Any person has a right to do whatever they feel necessary.
Derek Woods, USA


Yes, patients, in fact, all the people, have a right to decide when they should die. It is at the very heart of what "liberty" is

Rob Bowling, United States
Yes, patients, in fact, all the people, have a right to decide when they should die. It is at the very heart of what "liberty" is. It is also the ultimate expression of owning one's body.
No government should be permitted to substitute its judgement for that of an individual about what his or her moral, religious, or ethical beliefs are about life and death (so long as in doing so, the individual does not harm others, or force others to help them die).
Rob Bowling, United States

Anyone wishing to change the law on euthanasia should read Ian McEwan's book "Amsterdam". A chilling account of the relaxed laws in Holland allowing two perfectly healthy people to euthanise each other. Do not change the laws.
Genevieve Pink, Belgium

Right to die? Who knows what that phrase means? And what could possibly be worse than having a government ... any government decide?
Ray Hartman, USA

Everybody should have the right to die in a dignified way.
Mark, Portsmouth, UK


I find it horrifying that any judicial system should fall back on doctrines established by Christianity, or any religion for that matter

Jon Bailey, USA
I find it horrifying that any judicial system should fall back on doctrines established by Christianity, or any religion for that matter. To imagine that an adult of sound mind should be deprived of the right to decide, unilaterally, the nature of their fate is abhorrent to me. To put down a suffering mammal is considered humane by most people, the only difference is the reverence we place on human life. Why this reverence? Ten Commandments and some bizarre belief that only an imaginary deity has the right to take human life!
Jon Bailey, USA

Well of course she should have the right to die. I might not choose to die in her place, but that doesn't mean I have a right to impose that on her. Religion seems the only thing that would oppose her choosing that, and I thought that was supposed to be separate from government or law.
Drew, USA (San Francisco)

Since the legal issue is one of competence, and the patient seems to be competent, it looks as though she should win her case. If the doctors concerned are unwilling, for personal moral reasons, or for supposedly professional ethical reasons, to shut off the machine, then someone else should be permitted to do it. Those doctors who refuse to do this for personal moral reasons or who refuse others to do so, are the ones who are, in that odious phrase, 'playing God'. This phrase is odious because it assumes that the life of the competent person in question truly belongs to God - contention that is precisely the one often at issue in such cases. But this cannot be assumed in a secular society. So, as far as public policy is concerned, refusing to allow the machine to be switched off in such circumstances is a matter of those in charge simply imposing their preferences on the patient - an act of arbitrary power. This cannot be right.
Grenville Wall, Finland

See also:

08 Mar 02 | Health
Warning over right-to-die plea
23 Jan 02 | Health
Right-to-die case fast-tracked
04 Oct 01 | Health
Woman granted right to die
06 Oct 00 | Health
Go-ahead for 'death with dignity'
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