eurel     Données sociologiques et juridiques sur la religion en Europe et au-delà

Biodroit

Circumcision

Female circumcision is strictly prohibited under Danish Law, whereas male circumcision is allowed, but often debated. For boys, the legality rests on the consent of the parents (or the boy himself if he is at least 15 years old) and the fact that the procedure is performed by a doctor or and performed by an individual specifically trained for the procedure and observed by a doctor. In public debates on the issue, Denmark’s ‘obligation to be and stay a country for the Jews is often mentioned and has so far prevented the banning of the practice, also because of statements from The Jewish Society in Denmark on the impossibility of Jews living in a country where circumcision is prohibited (TV2 2020 ; Asmussen 2018).

Euthanasia

Euthanasia is prohibited in Denmark but so-called passive euthanasia, where active medical treatment is ceased and only palliative treatment remains, is allowed if a patient is fatally ill (Etik.dk n.y.).
In 2019 a case appeared before the Supreme Court on the matter of assisted suicide. Here two former doctors were convicted for having knowingly helped some people to commit suicide by helping them get specific medications and instructing them in how to take their own lives. The plaintiffs argued both their freedom of speech and the approaching individuals’ right to end their life on their own terms under article 8 of the ECHR on the right to privacy (U.2019.4267). However, the ECtHR agreed with the Danish Supreme Court in the case of the former doctor, as his rights to spread knowledge on how to perform suicide – generally – was not violated but since he gave specific advice to a series of specific people, he was rightfully convicted for assisting suicides (Ritzau 2022).

Jehovah’s Witnesses and Issues on Blood Transfer

In February 2022, the Danish Supreme Court overruled the High Court of Eastern Denmark’s ruling in a matter of the right to refuse treatment on religious grounds when the patient is unconscious. In 2014, a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses was brought to the hospital after an accident that rendered him unconscious. The man carried the ‘blood card’ indicating that in case of an accident he did not wish to receive blood, an opinion shared and expressed by his wife and family. Nevertheless, he was given blood after a few days in the hospital as the doctors regarded it imperative to saving his life. The man remained unconscious and died four weeks later, so his opinion in the matter was never known. The case was tried at the High Court in 2020, where the judges found that the consideration for the man’s religious freedom and right to autonomy over his body had been violated, since the man had on prior occasions refused to receive blood and since this opinion was maintained by his wife and family. However, the case was appealed and in February 2022 the Supreme Court overruled the decision of the High Court. The Supreme court found that since the Health Act states that a patient cannot refuse to receive blood in general but has to make a decision ‘in the current health condition and based on information from the healthcare personnel on the consequences for the patient’s health if the blood is not received’ (The Danish Health Act, article 24, subsection 2), the ‘blood card’ held no authority. The High Court based its ruling on the man’s past declarations and the general reservations expressed on the man’s ‘blood card’, whereas the Supreme Court based their ruling on article 24 of the Health Care Act and the fact that the man was never conscious enough to make an informed decision in the current health condition.
The ruling has been criticised for violating articles 8 and 9 of the EHRC but so far has not been appealed to this institution (Hanscomb & Christoffersen 2022, 5).

Literature
- Asmussen, Dan Rosenberg (2018), “Det Jødiske Samfund : Forbud mod omskæring kriminaliserer jødisk tro” (The Jewish Society : Prohibition against circumcision criminalises Jewish faith and practice”, accessed 22nd of March 2022,
- Case no. BS-49811/2020-HJR. It was legal to administer a blood transfusion to an unconscious patient who was a Jehovah’s Witness in a life-threatening situation,
- Etik.dk (n.y.), “Aktiv dødshjælp” (Euthanasia), accessed 22nd of March 2022,
- The Health Act, LBK no. 210, 27th of January 2022, accessed 22nd of March 2022,
- Hanscomb, Mathilde Lyager & Philip Christoffersen (2022), “Jehova-sag kan ende hos menneskeretsdomstol” (Jehovah-case might end up in Human Rights court), Kristelig Dagblad, 4th of February 2022,
- Ritzau (2022), accessed 12th of April 2022,
- TV2 (2020), “Mette F forklarer hvorfor hun ikke vil forbyde omskæring” (The Danish prime minister explains why she will not prohibit circumcision), accessed 22nd of March 2022,
- U.2019.4267 (2019), ”Hjælp til selvmord var omfattet af straffelovens paragraf 240” (Assisted suicide was covered by article 240 of the Penal Code), accessed 8th of April 2022.

D 10 mai 2022    AKaroline Dige

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

Suivez nous :
© 2002-2022 eurel - Contact