Helen O’Nions reflects on questions of individual autonomy and the public interest in recent human rights cases

Health has been a recurrent theme in human rights cases over the last six months – the health of pregnant women and terminally ill patients, both with and without capacity, to be precise. While this marks a welcome departure from my usual preoccupation with immigration and criminal justice, it demands deeper, metaphysical questions concerning the nature of life, death, and individual autonomy.

The senior courts are well versed in these considerations but questions are inevitably asked about the role of the judge in intimate and deeply personal decisions of finality. Many rights advocates would argue that autonomy and dignity are antecedent principles informing a...

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