Vera Lúcia Raposo
Recently, the Portuguese Parliament discussed four proposals aimed at allowing some forms of medically assisted death. However, all of them were rejected by the majority. Therefore, doctors who in some way accelerate a patient’s death risk being convicted of the crime of homicide. Portuguese law provides some legal mechanisms that can exempt a doctor from criminal liability, such as causes excluding the conduct’s wrongfulness, and causes excluding the doctor’s culpability. Other elements to take into consideration are a proper interpretation of homicide crimes, thereby excluding conducts without the intent to kill; the relevance of patient consent; and the rejection of medical futility. This article explains how a doctor may not be held criminally accountable for medically assisted death, even in restrictive jurisdictions such as the Portuguese one.
Gianluca Montanari Vergallo
The article looks into the case involving Fabiano Antoniani, who, following a major road accident, was left tetraplegic. Marco Cappato drove him to a Swiss clinic where Mr. Antoniani took his own life by self-administration of lethal pentobarbital sodium. Cappato was put on trial, but the Italian Constitutional Court urged the Parliament to decriminalise assisted suicide in extremely serious cases. From a comparison with other European countries, approaches range from restrictive (banning both active euthanasia and assisted suicide), to entirely permissive. An intermediate approach only entails a ban on active euthanasia. It would be desirable to uniformise the diverse national statutes on a European level, which would make it possible for everyone to receive assistance towards ending their suffering, with limitations to incurable cases to be medically verified, and at the end of a path designed to ensure that patient freedom of choice is upheld at all time.
This article explores when a doctor convicted of gross negligence manslaughter would be erased from the medical register. The General Medical Council (GMC) sanctions guidance avoids directing the Medical Practitioners Tribunal (MPT) about erasure following gross negligence manslaughter and rulings at the High Court and Court of Appeal argue against any presumption of erasure after a doctor is convicted of gross negligence manslaughter. The Court of Appeal in Bawa-Garba ruled that the sanctions guidance should not be taken to guide the MPT towards erasure after “serious harm to others either deliberately or through incompetence”, but merely permits erasure in those circumstances. This approach is consistent with the rest of the sanctions guidance which allows the MPT wide discretion and defends that MPT’s case-by- case approach. This promotes decision-making behind closed doors, diminishes the Sanctions Guidance, and makes it difficult to predict when a doctor will be erased after gross negligence manslaughter.
The current statutory framework in Ireland provides certain key safeguards for people who are admitted involuntarily for mental health treatment and care; the same legislation makes scant reference to the person who seeks treatment and care on a voluntary basis. This has led to concerns in relation to deprivation of liberty and to non-consensual medical treatment for these patients. This article seeks to examine the development of the law in relation to voluntary patients in Ireland and to assess in light of recent developments where Ireland now stands in terms of protecting the right of the voluntary patient to liberty.