The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) began hearing the case of Hungarian constitutional lawyer Daniel Karsai on Monday, in what observers say has raised long-overdue debates in Hungary about self-determination and ending life with dignity.
Karsai, 47, is terminally ill with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a form of motor neurone disease, and is arguing for the right to a self-determined death. Both euthanasia and assisted dying are illegal in Hungary. Even assisted suicide or euthanasia outside of Hungary would result in criminal charges for those who help him.
As a lawyer, he is directly involved in the case, representing himself in Strasbourg despite being unable to walk without assistance and having problems with his speech.
He told the media and the court that within a year he will be completely paralysed and unable to communicate; in his words, he will be “imprisoned in his own body with no prospect of release except death” and his existence will consist almost entirely of pain and suffering.
Karsai argues that the current Hungarian legal framework, which deprives him of freedom of choice, is inhumane, does not respect his private life and is also discriminatory because it does not penalise those who decide to refuse life-prolonging treatment. In his case, there is no treatment to refuse, only rapid deterioration leading to suffering and suffocation at the end.
The Hungarian government’s position was expressed by Gergely Gulyas, minister for the Prime Minister’s Office, who compared euthanasia to the death penalty and said that in matters of life and death, people should not decide. Lawyers representing the Hungarian government argue that Karsai’s fundamental rights have not been violated by not allowing euthanasia.
The hearing is scheduled to last two days and a verdict is expected early next year.
Karsai is aware that the court’s decision may come too late for him, as even if he wins, legal changes will take longer, but he believes it is important to fight for the right to die with dignity for future generations.
His case has sparked a vigorous public debate, across party lines and beliefs, that is seen as long overdue in this highly polarised country.
A recent Median poll found that more than two-thirds of Hungarians would support a “dignified death” to limit the suffering of a patient and almost half (47 per cent) would support euthanasia. Support or opposition to euthanasia does not seem to be influenced by party politics, as more than half of government voters would support it. Instead, it largely depends on religious beliefs.
Source : Balkan Insight