The right to life in a suicidal state

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This paper considers when the State must take positive steps to protect the right to life of a suicidal patient. Using recent developments across the Council of Europe which challenge the traditional 'ugly Samaritan' approach of many common law systems, it contends that whenever and wherever public authorities know or ought to know of a real and immediate risk to the life of an identifiable person, they must take reasonable precautions to minimise it. Even J. S. Mill's approach to liberty, it is suggested, would tolerate this limited degree of State interference. However, notions of autonomy and dignity, the unpredictability of human behaviour, and the need to avoid unduly burdening the State must influence what it means to act reasonably. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)350-357
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Law and Psychiatry
Issue number5-6
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2013


  • Autonomy
  • Dignity
  • Human right to life
  • Negligence
  • Public authorities
  • Suicide


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