Human Rights Act – The Right to Life

Every inquest is required to produce a conclusion which records the answers to four questions: who the deceased was and when, where and how he or she came by their death.

Prior to the incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into domestic law, the word “how” was always to be construed as meaning “by what means”, focusing on the immediate physical cause of the death.

In deaths where Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights applies, the question of “how” is treated more broadly and is to be read as including

  • By what means and in what circumstances the deceased came by his or her death.

The scope of an inquest

The European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly held that Article 2 (the right to life) encompasses an obligation on the state to protect life by a system of laws. That system is required to include a means of investigating deaths for which the state may have responsibility. This is referred to as the “investigative obligation”.

Where does the investigative obligation apply?

A number of cases have considered various circumstances where the duty to investigate arises. The duty to investigate arises in:

  • A death in prison or in state custody.
  • A police shooting.
  • The death of a detained psychiatric patient.
  • The death of a voluntary psychiatric patient, where the patient was vulnerable.

There are many other examples.

In one case it was accepted that faults of a systemic nature, such as a failure to provide suitable facilities or adequate staff or appropriate systems of operation could raise a specific obligation to conduct an investigation.

A death in a hospital due to alleged clinical negligence, would not ordinarily require an Article 2 inquest if a civil claim can be made.

Do you need advice about human rights and detention under the Mental Health Act?

In appropriate cases, damages can be claimed if there is a failure to protect the deceased’s right to life under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, incorporated into UK Law by the Human Rights Act 1998.

Human rights issues in relation to medical negligence are very complex.

Our team have the specialist knowledge necessary in dealing with these types of cases and can help if you need advice about the care of a loved one who has been detained.

Call us on 0800 138 0458, or complete our contact form and we will call you back.


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