EIT:n suuri jaosto: Kun valittaja oli pyytänyt kuolemansa salaamista EIT:lta, jätettiin valitus tutkimatta2.10.2014 | Oikeusuutiset
Euroopan ihmisoikeustuomioistuimen (EIT) suuri jaosto antoi mielenkiintoisen tuomion tapauksessa, jossa valittaja oli väittänyt hänen yksityiselämänsä suojaa rikotun, kun hänelle ei ollut annettu mahdollisuutta hankkia kuolettavaa ainetta itsemurhan toteuttamiseen.
Valittaja oli, ilmoittamatta siitä avustajalleen tai EIT:lle, kuollut jo ennen jaostoratkaisua, jossa hänen yksityiselämänsä suojaa oli katsottu loukatun. EIT:n suuri jaosto katsoi, että yhteistyö tuomioistuimen kanssa ja velvollisuus ilmoittaa asian käsittelyn kannalta relevantit faktat ovat niin ehdottomia, että valitus jätettiin tutkimatta valitusoikeuden väärinkäytön perusteella.
Ratkaisu syntyi äänin 9-8. Vähemmistöön jääneet tuomarit katsoivat, että valitusta ei olisi tullut enemmistön mainitsemilla perusteilla jättää tutkimatta, vaan olisivat poistaneet valituksen asialistalta, koska valittaja oli kuollut eikä häneltä ollut jäänyt läheisiä, jotka olisivat voineet jatkaa prosessia.
The applicant, Alda Gross, is a Swiss national who was born in 1931 and died on 10 November 2011. For many years she had expressed the wish to end her life. Although not suffering from any clinical illness, she submitted that she was becoming increasingly frail and was unwilling to continue suffering the decline of her physical and mental faculties.
Having unsuccessfully attempted to find a doctor willing to issue the prescription required to obtain a lethal dose of sodium pentobarbital, she applied to the Health Board of the Canton of Zurich, which rejected her request to be provided with the drug in April 2009. The decision was eventually upheld by the courts in April 2010.
The doctors consulted by Ms Gross or her representative declined to issue the requested prescription in particular because Ms Gross was not suffering from a clinical illness. They pointed out that they were prevented by the code of professional conduct from issuing the prescription and/or feared to be drawn into lengthy judicial proceedings. The Swiss Federal Supreme Court, in its decision of 12 April 2010 rejecting Ms Gross’ appeal against the Health Board’s decision, considered that there was no obligation on the State to guarantee an individual access to a lethal drug. It further held, in particular, that she did not fulfil the prerequisites laid down in the medical ethics guidelines on the care of patients at the end of life adopted by the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences, as she was not suffering from a terminal illness.
Ms Gross’ application was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on 10 November 2010. She complained that by denying her the right to decide by what means and at what point her life would end the Swiss authorities had breached Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the Convention. A number of organisations submitted their comments on the merits, having been given leave to intervene in the written procedure as third parties (Article 36 of the Convention).
In its Chamber judgment of 14 May 2013, the European Court of Human Rights held, by a majority, that there had been a violation of Article 8 of the Convention. It found in particular that Swiss law, while providing the possibility of obtaining a lethal dose of a drug on medical prescription, did not provide sufficient guidelines ensuring clarity as to the extent of this right. This uncertain situation was likely to have caused Ms Gross a considerable degree of anguish. At the same time, the Court did not take a stance on the question of whether she should have been granted the possibility to acquire a lethal dose of medication allowing her to end her life.
The case was subsequently referred to the Grand Chamber on request of the Swiss Government.
In parallel with the proceedings before the European Court of Human Rights, Ms Gross continued her efforts to obtain a prescription for a lethal dose of a drug. In October 2011 a medical practitioner prescribed her a lethal dose of sodium pentobarbital. On 10 November 2011, she ended her life with the assistance of the assisted-suicide association EXIT, by drinking the substance. A subsequent police report concluded that no third person was found to be criminally liable.
The Court was not made aware of her death until 7 January 2014. On that date, the Swiss Government informed the Court that, when preparing their submissions to the Grand Chamber they had enquired about Ms Gross’ situation with the municipality where she lived, and had thus found out about her death.
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