Withdrawal of nutrition and hydration would not offend right to life – Strasbourg Court

P3_010457_Sonde_SHS_PUR_violett_Kurzzeit_SG8_80_A6_RGB_575px_01Lambert and Others v. France (application no. 46043/14) – read judgment

In an important step away from Pretty v UK, the Grand Chamber of the Strasbourg Court has upheld the right of to die with dignity by ruling that there would be no violation of Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights if artificial nutrition and hydration were to be withdrawn from a patient in a persistent vegetative state.

Although the facts were very different, it is heartening to see Strasbourg at last allowing the argument that the state’s obligation to protect life also involves a duty to respect people’s rights to exit life with dignity. The importance of this ruling cannot be underestimated, as can be seen in the ferocity of dissent set out in the Separate Opinion annexed to the judgment (discussed at the end of this post.)

The case involved a challenge by some of the patient’s family members to a judgment delivered on 24 June 2014 by the Conseil d’État which authorised this step.  The following summary of the facts and judgment is based on the Court’s press release.

Background facts

Vincent Lambert sustained serious head injuries in a road-traffic accident on 29 September 2008, which left him tetraplegic and in a state of complete dependency. At the time of this hearing he was in the care of a hospital which specialises in patients in a vegetative or minimally conscious state.In 2011 his condition was characterised as minimally conscious and in 2014 as vegetative. He receives artificial nutrition and hydration which is administered enterally, through a gastric tube. Continue reading

Is it homophobic to turn away gay blood donors?

mike 0010

mike 0010

Léger (Judgment) [2015] EUECJ C-528/13 (29 April 2015) – read judgment

Blood donation centres all over Europe are grateful for volunteers, but sometimes people don’t make it through the assessment process.  Restrictions on male homosexual blood donors are particularly tricky, because they fly in the face of equality, whilst reflecting our current, no doubt inadequate, understanding of how infectious diseases are transmitted, and how long pathogens remain viable in human blood.

This case started when a French citizen, M. Léger, presented himself at his local blood donation centre. He was turned down after interview. The relevant law in France implements two EU Directives on blood donation which lay down specific conditions regarding eligibility.

Legal background

This was a request to the European Court (CJEU) for a preliminary ruling on Directive 2002/98/EC which imposes safety standing on the collection of blood for therapeutic use (the “Blood Directive”). It requires that blood should only be taken from individuals “whose health status is such that no detrimental effects will ensue as a result of the donation and that any risk of transmission of infectious diseases is minimised”. It also states that potential donors should be assessed by way of interview for their suitability. Continue reading

No duty of care to disclose to pregnant daughter father’s genetic disease – High Court

12280487228o6zg0ABC v St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust and others [2015] EWHC 139, Nicol J – read judgment

Philip Havers QC  and Hannah Noyce, and Elizabeth-Anne Gumbel Q.C. and Henry Witcomb  of Crown Office Row represented the defendants and claimant respectively in this case. None of them have had anything to do with the writing of this post.

I have blogged before on the Pandora’s box of ethical problems and dilemmas emerging out of our increasing understanding of genetic disorders (see here, here and here), and here is a case that encompasses some of the most difficult of them. Continue reading

Mother paraded as “intimidated martyr” to cheat gay couple of surrogacy arrangement – Family Court

surrogate_motherH & S (Surrogacy Arrangement) EWFC 36, 30 April 2015

M, a fifteen month old girl, was born as the result of artificial or assisted conception and of a highly contested agreement between S (the mother, a Romanian national) and H (the father, of Hungarian extraction) and B (the second applicant and H’s partner who had moved to the UK in 2004). None of these parties are portrayed in the photograph illustrating this post.  Read judgment here

H is in a long-term and committed relationship with B and was at the time of conception. H and B contended that they had an agreement with S that she would act as a surrogate and that H and B would co-parent the child but that S would continue to play a role in the child’s life.  It was a central part of their evidence that S offered to help them become parents and, following discussions between them, first with H and then involving B, the parties agreed to proceed on the basis that H and B would be the parents to the child and that S would have a subsidiary but active role. On 20 or 22 April 2013 M was conceived by artificial insemination using sperm from H at the applicants’ home. It is agreed by all parties that B was at home when the insemination took place.  Continue reading

Export of live animals for slaughter: European Court rules that animal welfare laws apply outside the EU

Zuchtvieh-Export (Judgment) [2015] EUECJ C-4242/13 (23 April 2015) – read judgment

iStock_000004682690Small_CowsAnimal welfare groups and campaigners for humane farming  have welcomed the latest ruling by the European Court of Justice upholding the refusal of German authorities to allow the export of live cattle to Kazakhstan, a 7,000 km journey involving insufficient rest stops and unloading. According to Compassion in World Farming

Every year, over three million animals are exported from the European Union to non-EU countries. Hundreds of thousands are destined for countries in Russia, Turkey, The Middle East and North Africa. (Live exports from the EU)

This was a referral from German municipal authorities on just this question. It sought a ruling from the European Court of Justice (CJEU) regarding the interpretation of Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 of 22 December 2004 on the protection of animals during transport and related operations. Continue reading

Birth certificate cannot be retrospectively changed to reflect father’s gender reassignment

birthcertificate300x203_4fba822944823JK, R(on the application of) v Secretary of State for Home Department and another [2015] EWHC 990 (Admin) 20 April 2015 – read judgment

This case concerned the rights of transgender women, and their families, in particular the right to keep private the fact that they are transgender.

The Court heard a challenge to the requirement in the UK’s birth registration system that men who had changed gender from male to female should be listed as the “father” on the birth certificates of their biological children. Having decided that this did engage the claimant’s privacy rights under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, in conjunction with the right not to be discriminated against under Article 14, the Court concluded that the interference was justified.

Factual and legal background

The clamant JK had been born male. She was married to a woman, KK, and the couple had two naturally conceived children. After the birth of the first child in 2012, JK was diagnosed with gender identity disorder and concomitant gender dysphoria. In October 2012, she started a course of feminising hormone treatment. The treatment pathway requires two years living as a female before consideration is given for referral for gender reassignment surgery. Before the claimant started feminising hormone therapy, KK fell pregnant a second time, again conceiving naturally by the claimant. Continue reading

“Cold Calling” company fined £75K for breach of privacy

iStock_000018110696XSmallReactiv Media Limited v The Information Commissioner (Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulations  (2003) [2015] UKFTT 2014_0213 (GRC) (13 April 2015) – read judgment

Although an individual’s right to privacy is usually thought of in the context of state intrusion in one form or another, in reality the real threat of intrusion in a society such as ours comes from unsolicited marketing calls.

What many people may not be aware of is that if an individual has registered with the Telephone Preference Service, these calls are unlawful and the company responsible may be fined. It is therefore worth making a complaint, even if one instinctively feels that taking such a step will invite more intrusion. This case is a nice illustration of privacy being upheld and the rules enforced against an unscrupulous and persistent offender.

TPS is operated on behalf of the direct marketing industry by the Direct Marketing Association (DPA) and subscribers’ rights not to receive such calls may be enforced under Regulation 21 of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003Continue reading