The Limits of Autonomy: Law at the End of Life in England and Wales
Self-Determination, Dignity and End-of-Life Care. Regulating Advance Directives in International and Comparative Perspective, Stefania Negri, ed., Brill, 2012, pp.221-248
33 Pages Posted: 29 Jul 2015 Last revised: 31 Dec 2015
Date Written: 2012
This chapter describes the law governing end of life decision-making in England and Wales. The situation in Scotland is governed by a separate legal regime which will not be covered here. In relation to competent adults, the law seeks to protect their autonomy to make their own medical decisions, although this protection of autonomy is limited by the act/omission distinction and thus does not permit patients to request acts which cause death. The autonomy of those who do not fall into the category of competent adults, including adolescents, children and incompetent adults is not considered by the law to be as important as other values, including protecting life and health.
Keywords: advance directives, living wills, refusal, euthanasia, assisted suicide, assisted dying, act omission distinction, autonomy, medical law, criminal law
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