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Non-Voluntary Passive Euthanasia: The Social Consequences of Euphemisms

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Non-voluntary passive euthanasia, the commonest form of euthanasia, is seldom mentioned in the UK. This article illustrates how the legal reasoning in Airedale NHS Trust v Bland contributed towards this conceptual deletion. By upholding the impermissibility of euthanasia, whilst at the same time permitting 'euthanasia' under the guise of 'withdrawing futile treatment', it is argued that the court (logically) allowed (withdrawing futile treatment and euthanasia). The Bland reasoning was incorporated into professional guidance, which extended the court's ruling to encompass patients who, unlike Anthony Bland, were sentient. But since the lawfulness of (withdrawing futile treatment and euthanasia) hinges on the futility of treatment, and since the guidance provides advice about withdrawing treatment from patients who differ from those considered in court, the lawfulness of such 'treatment decisions' is unclear. Legislation s proposed in order to redress the ambiguity that arose when moral decisions about 'euthanasia' were translated into medical decisions about 'treatment'.

Affiliations: 1: Imperial College School of Medicine, London


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