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No requirement to publish prosecution guidance regarding assisted suicide: Scots Law

This case concerned an appeal under Scots Law from a decision of the Lord Ordinary on a petition for judicial review.  The petitioner suffered from Parkinson’s disease and anticipated that eventually he would require assistance to end his life.  He sought clarification as to the factors that would be taken into account in deciding whether or not to prosecute the person who assisted him.

In Scotland, the position differs from that of England and Wales in that it is not a criminal offence to assist the suicide of another person.  However, assisting someone to commit suicide could give rise to liability for either murder or culpable homicide where the assistance is the immediate and direct cause of death.

The Petitioner sought a declaration that the Lord Advocate was in breach of Article 8 of the ECHR in failing to publish specific guidance which identified the facts and circumstances he will take into account in deciding whether or not to prosecute someone for assisting another person to commit suicide.

The Inner House of the Court of Session upheld the Lord Ordinary’s decision that the refusal to publish such guidance did not violate Article 8 of the ECHR.

The UK Human Rights Blog article is available here.

Criminal Law, Medical Law, Suicide