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   Case summaries      Pretty v UK 2346/02

Pretty v United Kingdom 2346/02 [2002] ECHR 427 European Court of Human Rights

The applicant Diane Pretty, suffered from motor neurone disease (MND). This is a disease of the motor cells in the central nervous system which causes the muscles to weaken and waste away. This not only affects bodily movement, but also muscles associated with speech, breathing and swallowing. There is no known treatment or cure and those that suffer from it will generally die a slow and undignified death. The applicant was at an advanced stage of MND. She was paralysed from the neck down, she had great difficulty in speech and was fed through a tube. She was concerned that she would suffer a slow and undignified death. She was not capable of taking her own life. She wrote to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) seeking an immunity from prosecution for her husband should he assist her to die. This was refused and she brought an action in the High Court for judicial review of the decision of the DPP and a right to the right to decide the time and circumstances of her death. The High court found for the DPP as did the House of Lords on appeal. The applicant applied to the European Court of Human Rights seeking to rely on Art 2, Art 3 and Art 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights.


Art 2 - No violation

Art 2 protects the right to life. If any benefits attach to voluntary euthanasia these are not benefits which derive protection from an Article framed to protect the sanctity of life.

Art 3 - No violation

The positive obligation on the state under Art 3 to prevent inhuman or degrading treatment did not extend to ensuring a terminally ill person unable to take their own life was entitled to seek the assistance of another without the other being exposed to prosecution.

Art 8 - No violation

The right to private life did not include a right to choose when and how to die.

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