EU human rights’ court rejects Hungarian ALS patient’s right to euthanasia

The human rights lawyer used his illness to highlight ALS patients' suffering

ALS patient Dániel Karsai. (Wikimedia Commons)
By Dénes Albert
3 Min Read

Hungary does not breach a person’s human rights by legally restricting euthanasia, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) wrote in a ruling.

The 47-year-old Dániel Karsai, a human rights lawyer who represented over 1,000 clients at the ECHR, filed a suit at the ECHR last September in order to uphold his right to euthanasia. Karsai is suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as motor neuron disease, that results in a progressive loss of motor neurons, eventually resulting in death from respiratory failure.

In its ruling, the ECHR wrote: “in the case of Dániel Karsai v Hungary, the court ruled by 6 votes to 1 that the lawyer’s human rights had not been violated under Article 8 of the European Convention (the right to respect for private and family life) and that there was no violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) in relation to Article 8.”

On his Facebook page, Karsai called the decision a big disappointment, but said they would continue to fight.

In a press release, the ECHR wrote that the potential failures in Karsai’s case have potentially wide-ranging social consequences and risks, and that physician-assisted suicide carries a risk of abuse.

They pointed out that although there is a growing trend towards legalization, the majority of Council of Europe member states still prohibit physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia. The state therefore had a wide margin of appreciation in this respect, and the court found that the Hungarian authorities had not failed to strike a fair balance and had not exceeded that margin of appreciation.

However, the court emphasized that the need for appropriate legal measures should be kept under constant review in the light of developments in the health sector.

The human rights’ court considered that high-quality palliative care, including access to effective pain relief, ensures a dignified end to life. According to expert opinions, the palliative care options available, including the use of palliative sedation, are generally capable of providing patients with palliative relief and enabling them to die peacefully.

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