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Crime: Life-shortening Medication

Volume 690: debated on Wednesday 21 March 2007

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the doctrine of double effect in relation to the law on homicide applies to the use by a doctor of life-shortening medication with the intention of relieving a patient's severe suffering and distress as distinct from pain.[HL2625]

The Government understand that criminal liability is sometimes analysed in terms of an application of the doctine of double effect. But they are not aware of any case law where the doctrine of double effect has been considered in relation to the particular facts described.

Whether or not such actions could amount to homicide would depend on the facts of any particular case and would include considerations of the nature of the medical treatment, the intention of the doctor and the cause of death.