Right to Life and Suicide


Last week there was a case that was heard in the House of Lords. It involved a woman, Mrs Savage,  who had been a patient at Runwell Hospital, in Essex and had been allowed to leave the hospital. She had subsequently acted to actively bring about her own death but walking in front of a train.

image Robert Brook at Flickr

Her daughter, Anna Savage,  brought the action against the NHS Trust – The South Essex Partnership Trust –  arguing that they had been negligent and had breached the European Convention of Human Rights by denying the woman in question, her right to life – as protected under Article 2 of the Convention.

The appeal against the Trust was upheld by the House of Lords after being turned down by the Appeal Court.

The Times prints an interesting summary judgement. Namely, if a hospital employs competent and qualified staff who make an error of judgement in the care of a patient as a result of the incompetency of a particular staff member than the Trust is doing all it can to protect Article 2 rights

The Trust itself, though,  has responsibilities to provide guidelines and systems  – operational obligations – to supervise patients who are at the risk of suicide. If they do not, as was found to be the case at Runwell Hospital – it is the hospital rather than the individual staff member who is found culpable of breaching the Article 2 right to life.

I am no lawyer but I do wonder if some of those operational procedures and guidelines are also necessary to be in place outside a hospital setting.  The judgement is clear in stating that the Trust has to have been aware of the suicide risk but it is a hope that at least, the judgement will emphasise the importance of organisational obligations and procedures and the responsibilities of the Trust to provide and maintain them.

4 thoughts on “Right to Life and Suicide

  1. Only the helpless and hopeless people are the one who commit suicide.. but mostly on drugs..

  2. Oversimplistic, I’m afraid but an easy soundbite.
    I was really concerning myself with people who are unwell – which is really what the article is concerned with.

  3. A very sad case, but as with so many things, it is one thing to legislate against something happening but surely far more difficult to ensure in practice. Do we end up treating the mentally ill like prisoners to ensure that they cannot take their own life?

  4. I suppose my thought was that the judgement might not have changed the outcome – i.e that the person would have left the hospital – but more the hope that procedures and checks and balances are in place in the Trusts.

    But yes, madsadgirl, you are right that it might lead to a snap reaction to further supervise people who are in hospital and ‘at risk’.

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