R(Purdy) v DPP and the Case for Wilful Blindness

Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 30 (2):301-326 (2010)
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This article critiques the recent House of Lords decision, R(Purdy) v DPP, and explores the wider debate over the legalization of assisted suicide, with particular focus on assistance in ‘suicide-tourism’. It proceeds in roughly two parts. In the first part, I seek to make the case that it was not legally necessary for the Lords to order that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) clarify his long-standing policy of not prosecuting those who compassionately assist loved ones to travel abroad to die. On the purely legal merits of the case, the Lords’ hands were not ‘tied’, so to speak, and I will attempt to show that a closer analysis of the argumentation leading to the decision will expose its errors in this respect. This conclusion will then open up the normative question of whether clarification of the DPP’s policy is a progressive development. I suggest that in light of the special practical and ethical considerations at stake, the DPP’s previous practice of turning a blind eye to instances of assisted suicide bearing out certain features—whilst not clarifying his policy to this effect—was the most satisfactory one, and that the Lords’ decision was hence a retrograde step.



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Organ Transplantation, the Criminal Law, and the Health Tourist.Jean V. Mchale - 2013 - Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 22 (1):64-76.

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