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ULAW3010 Understanding Law

Published : 17-Sep,2021  |  Views : 10


Part A 

• Compare and contrast euthanasia laws in the UK and Switzerland. How have the society's morals and attitudes affected the laws in each case?

Use a 'point-by-point' approach, as covered in EAP 1.

Introduce the topic of euthanasia
Introduce the two contrasting countries. Explain the status of the law on
euthanasia (legal or illegal).
Outline the structure of your essay

Main body:
Compare and contrast the reasons euthanasia is legal/illegal in your chosen
countries. What are the main influences? What is the role of society's morals,
attitudes and values?

Part B

Write a reflective log as an account of your experience in researching the topic above.

 You must make reference to the following points when reflecting:
I. What skills have you developed through the completion of the essay in Part A (e.g. research, planning, writing etc.)?
II. How could you use these skills in a future legal role such as a solicitor or barrister?



Euthanasia can be defined as such a practice where the life of a person is intentionally ended so as to relieve them of their suffering and their pain. There are different standpoints when it comes to the laws relating to euthanasia on the basis of difference of laws of each nation. Another term which is used to denote euthanasia is assisted suicide (Paterson, 2008). Some nations deem assisted suicide as legal, for instance, Switzerland and the other deem it as illegal, for instance, UK. In the following parts, a discussion has been carried on the contrasting laws of these two nations and the key influences which have an impact on these, including the values, morals and attitudes of the society.  

Comparison and Contrasting

Under section 2 of the Suicide Act, 1961, which is an act of UK, the aiding, abetting, procuring and counseling in the suicide of another person is deemed as an offence which is liable for an imprisonment for a term which cannot be more than 14 years. The Crown Prosecution Service permits the prosecutor to use their own discretion, owing to which, the prosecution is seldom (Papadopoulou, 2017). The only alternative which the terminally ill patients have is to refuse the treatment. Re B (adult refusal of medical treatment) (2002) FD was a case where Mr. B was allowed to refuse thee treatment, even when it would it would lead to her death (Four Paper Buildings, 2017). Though, for the mentally ill patients, even this right is not available. A range of proposals have been laid down to reform the act, and allow the provision to assisted suicide. However, even the latest proposal presented in this regard, back in September 2015, was rejected by 118 to 330 votes by the House of Commons (Papadopoulou, 2017).

Contrary to the laws of UK, in Switzerland, assisted suicide is permissible. However, the limits have been drawn under this law too. The Swiss Civil Code of 1942, through article 115, makes it unlawful to help or incite suicide when the same stems from selfish motives. And as per Article 114, any active role in voluntary euthanasia is also deemed as unlawful. So, any such assisted suicide, which occurs by omission and is stemmed from non-selfish motives, continues to be legal (The Federal Council, 2017).

There is a key difference under the Switzerland laws regarding assisted suicide and euthanasia. So, in case an individual has been prescribed lethal drug and there is an active role of such an individual in the administration of drugs, it is lawful. However, the administration of a lethal injection, which is considered as active euthanasia, is unlawful. So, any and all forms of active euthanasia continue to be prohibited in the nation. The individual is provided with the means of committing suicide only when the interests are not selfish, for instance, a person would not be provided the requisite assistance in case the objective behind such suicide is monetary gain (Webb, 2005).

Owing to the stark differentiation in the laws of the two nations, often, the people from UK travel to other nations, which include Switzerland, for assisted suicide (Kamouni, 2017). This is especially beneficial as a person is not required to be a citizen of Switzerland to use a clinic where assisted suicide is provided. Due to these reasons, the nation is even said to be tapping on suicide tourism (The Telegraph, 2011). This situation is further strengthened by the fact that assisted suicide in the nation can be performed by the non-physicians (Hurst and Mauron, 2003). The involvement of physician is crucial for safeguarding assisted suicide, and by not keeping this requirement, the notion that Switzerland is tapping on suicide tourism, becomes solidified.

In 2014, 1029 was the number of non-assisted suicides and 742 was the number of assisted suicides. The majority of the assisted suicides were related to the terminally diseased elderly people, who were suffering badly (Federal Office for statistics, 2016). The reason for so many people opting towards assisted suicide lies in the fear of people in dying badly. The other reason for the people opting for assisted suicide in Switzerland stems from the wish of the patients of not being a burden on their relatives, or to be asked to go in a care home (O'Dea, 2012).

If the reasons for allowing assisted suicide in Switzerland are closely evaluated, they present that the person is allowed to give in to his fear and die without trying to fight for his life. The society of UK views assisted suicide as immoral and treats it in the manner of murder and manslaughter (NHS, 2017). The key theme is to honor the sanctity of life and valuing a person’s life, by helping them fight the illness, instead of simply allowing them to end their life (BBC, 2017). However, this view has seldom being challenged, where the person is terminally ill. A retired lecturer, Noel Conway, condemned the Suicide Act of 1961 as leading him to a terrifying and undignified death (Bowcott and Sherwood, 2017). However, this cannot challenge the notion that the right of life is safeguarded in UK. A leading example of this is the case of Re A (Conjoined twins) (2001) 2 WLR 480. In this case, even when it was a high chance that Rosie would die if the twins were separated, the operation was undertaken to save the life of Gracie (E-Law Resources, 2017). So, under the English laws, the attempt is made to save the life and not merely end it for the reasons of suffering.


The discussion undertaken above highlights the stark difference between the standpoint of Switzerland and UK on assisted suicide. Even though both nations make euthanasia illegal, assisted suicide is considered as lawful in Switzerland, whereas it continues to be illegal in UK. The difference is due to the fact that Switzerland allows it citizens to run away from fear of pain and even actual suffering; whereas UK gives supremacy to the value of life, even when it proves to be painful in cases involving terminally ill patients. Each nation has been applauded and criticized for its policies and steps are constantly undertaken in both nations, to amend the laws. To state the law of which nation is supreme, would depend upon the ideology which one follows. And based on the discussion carried above, the view of the writer favors the law of UK.


BBC. (2017) Anti-euthanasia arguments. [Online] BBC. Available from: [Accessed on: 11/08/17]

Bowcott, O., and Sherwood, H. (2017) Terminally ill UK man launches legal challenge for right to die. [Online] The Guardian. Available from: [Accessed on: 11/08/17]

E-Law Resources. (2017) Re A (conjoined twins) [2001] 2 WLR 480. [Online] E-Law Resources. Available from: [Accessed on: 11/08/17]

Federal Office for statistics. (2016) Euthanasia and suicide in Switzerland 2014. [Online] Federal Office for statistics. Available from: [Accessed on: 11/08/17]

Four Paper Buildings. (2017) Re B (Consent to Treatment: Capacity). [Online] Four Paper Buildings. Available from: [Accessed on: 11/08/17]

Hurst, S.A., and Mauron, A. (2003) Assisted suicide and euthanasia in Switzerland: allowing a role for non-physicians. British Medical Journal, 326(7383), pp. 271–273.

Kamouni, S. (2017) THE RIGHT TO DIE? What is euthanasia and assisted suicide law in the UK and why do campaigners want to change it?. [Online] The Sun. Available from: [Accessed on: 11/08/17]

NHS. (2017) Euthanasia and assisted suicide. [Online] NHS. Available from: [Accessed on: 11/08/17]

O'Dea, C. (2012) Finding a place for assisted suicide in society. [Online] Swiss Info. Available from: [Accessed on: 11/08/17]

Papadopoulou, N. (2017) Assisted-dying laws are progressing in some places - the UK isn’t one of them. [Online] Independent. Available from: [Accessed on: 11/08/17]

Paterson, C. (2008) Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia: A Natural Law Ethics Approach. Hampshire, England: Ashgate Publishing Limited.

The Federal Council. (2017) Swiss Criminal Code. [Online] The Federal Council. Available from: [Accessed on: 11/08/17]

The Telegraph. (2011) Zurich votes to keep 'suicide tourism' alive. [Online] The Telegraph. Available from: [Accessed on: 11/08/17]

Webb, P.A. (2005) Ethical Issues in Palliative Care. 2nd ed. Oxon: Radcliffe Publishing Ltd.

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