Skip to content

ADF to top human rights court: Protect human dignity, there’s no ‘right’ to kill the weak

Alliance Defending Freedom submits brief in pivotal European case regarding doctor-prescribed death for woman not terminally ill
California’s Physician-Assisted Suicide Law is Anything But Compassionate

Attorney sound bite:  Paul Coleman

STRASBOURG, France — Alliance Defending Freedom filed a brief with the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights Monday supporting the Swiss government for refusing to provide a woman who does not suffer from any fatal disease with drugs to commit suicide.

In October, the Grand Chamber agreed to review the case after an ECHR panel ruled 4-3 that Switzerland’s law banning lethal poison in such circumstances violates Article 8 (regarding the right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights because the court considered the law vague.

“The government has an obligation to protect life, not assist in promoting death,” said Legal Counsel Paul Coleman. “A person’s claim that she should be able to do whatever she pleases does not override national laws rightfully designed to protect the weak and vulnerable. We are encouraging the Grand Chamber to uphold this principle, which is completely consistent with the European Convention on Human Rights.”

Alliance Defending Freedom intervened in the case, Gross v. Switzerland, in March 2012. The brief filed Monday explains that previous rulings on the subject conflict with one another: “It is therefore incumbent upon the Grand Chamber of this esteemed Court to clarify what for many years seemed abundantly clear: that the European Convention on Human Rights protects the fundamental right to life of all the citizens that live within its jurisdiction; it does not include a ‘right’ to lethal poison, nor any other ‘procedural rights’ that may attach to this.”

Although Switzerland is one of only four European countries to allow doctor-prescribed death in certain circumstances, individuals can obtain sodium pentobarbital, a drug that can be used to commit suicide, only after a medical examination and prescription by a doctor.

Alda Gross, a Swiss citizen, failed to find a doctor prepared to prescribe the lethal substance to her, so she appealed to the national courts in 2009. The Swiss courts held that the restrictive conditions placed on the drug are in place to prevent abuse and cannot be overridden in the absence of a medical prescription. They also noted that Gross “does not suffer from a fatal disease.”

The Gross v. Switzerland case is the most recent attempt to create a “right” to assisted suicide under the European Convention. In a very similar case, Haas v. Switzerland, the European Court of Human Rights in 2011 unanimously rejected the claim that the country had an obligation to assist individuals in committing suicide.


  • Pronunciation guide: Gross (GROHS’)
  • Case summary: Gross v. Switzerland


Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.


# # # | Ref. 36821