Most of the campaigners for euthanasia are those directly affected by this, in that, they are themselves suffering from a terminal illness, or have a loved one that has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. The impetus behind the legalisation stems from the desire to end the suffering of the loved one or their own suffering if they are the one diagnosed with the terminal illness. This paper aims to discuss how the courts should deal with the issue of euthanasia and whether it is time for a change in legislation so that those assisting a loved one to die would not have to fear the possibility of criminal charges for their actions.
It is important to make the distinction between active and passive euthanasia in order to assess the way in which the criminal and civil courts have determined the legality of the treatment. With active euthanasia the person’s death is brought about by the deliberate administration of medication to terminate the life of that person. Conversely, passive euthanasia occurs where treatment of the patient is refused or terminated, culminating in the death of the patient. A common use of this form of euthanasia would involve the removal of ventilation equipment to assist the breathing of the patient, or the removal of a feeding tube. In some cases, where a patient is critically ill, the relatives of the patient might instruct the doctors not to administer treatment if the patient goes into cardiac arrest. Although active and passive euthanasia will have the effect of terminating the life of the patient, the courts seem to be more readily able to accept passive euthanasia over active euthanasia. Part of the reasoning behind this stems from the notion that a patient is entitled to refuse to undergo treatment that will prolong their life, but they are not allowed to insist on any treatment that will hasten their