Sobre la necesidad de reglas claras cuando se regula el suicidio asistido: sentencia del Tribunal Europeo de Derechos Humanos “caso Gross contra Suiza”

Ayer, 14 de mayo, se hizo publica la sentencia del Tribunal Europeo de Derechos Humanos en el caso Gross contra Suiza. En esta resolución se analiza la legislación helvética en materia de ayuda al suicidio y se concluye, entre otras cosas, que esta normativa afecta al derecho a la vida privada y familar (artículo 8 del Convenio Europeo de Derechos Humanos). La ausencia de reglas claras y precisas en esta materia ha generado a la demandante una angustia considerable hasta el punto de vulnerar su derecho a la vida privada. En palabras del Tribunal:

The Court has considered that, in an era of growing medical sophistication combined with longer life expectancies, many people are concerned that they should not be forced to linger on in old age or in states of advanced physical or mental decrepitude which conflict with strongly held ideas of self and personal identity…

The Court considers that the uncertainty as to the outcome of her request in a situation concerning a particularly important aspect of her life must have caused the applicant a considerable degree of anguish. The Court concludes that the applicant must have found herself in a state of anguish and uncertainty regarding the extent of her right to end her life which would not have occurred if there had been clear, State-approved guidelines defining the circumstances under which medical practitioners are authorised to issue the requested prescription in cases where an individual has come to a serious decision, in the exercise of his or her free will, to end his or her life, but where death is not imminent as a result of a specific medical condition. The Court acknowledges that there may be difficulties in finding the necessary political consensus on such controversial questions with a profound ethical and moral impact. However, these difficulties are inherent in any democratic process and cannot absolve the authorities from fulfilling their task therein…

The foregoing considerations are sufficient to enable the Court to conclude that Swiss law, while providing the possibility of obtaining a lethal dose of sodium pentobarbital on medical prescription, does not provide sufficient guidelines ensuring clarity as to the extent of this right. There has accordingly been a violation of Article 8 of the Convention in this respect.

The Court considers that it is primarily up to the domestic authorities to issue comprehensive and clear guidelines on whether and under which circumstances an individual in the applicant’s situation – that is, someone not suffering from a terminal illness – should be granted the ability to acquire a lethal dose of medication allowing them to end their life. Accordingly, the Court decides to limit itself to the conclusion that the absence of clear and comprehensive legal guidelines violated the applicant’s right to respect for her private life under Article 8 of the Convention, without in any way taking up a stance on the substantive content of such guidelines.

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