Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



This Note explores the double effect rule that currently governs physician-assisted suicide cases in the United Kingdom. Recent events in the British medical and legal community have raised serious questions about the rule's adequacy, and have arguably created an environment in which Parliament must reexamine the validity of both the double effect rule and the laws governing active euthanasia.

After providing some historical background regarding the origins and development of the double effect rule, this Note surveys recent developments such as changing attitudes towards euthanasia and the public reaction to the Moor verdict, both of which have created an environment that is highly critical of the double effect rule. It then analyzes these criticisms in light of the widespread confusion that application of the rule has caused in both the medical and legal community, and the conspicuous failure of Parliament to respond by legislating on this topic.

This Note argues that the United Kingdom should move away from a rule that essentially turns a blind eye to euthanasia and toward one which makes physician-assisted suicide legal only when it is carried out under a number of stringent, well-defined procedures and safeguards. It then provides a legal framework designed to aid Parliament in creating a balanced law that provides doctors with clear guidelines regarding their conduct, while ensuring that patient and societal interests in curbing potential abuses in this area are addressed.