Two current court cases in England gave me pause for thought about where the law of the land needs to protect people and where it should very definitely butt out.

The first had Tini Owens, trapped in a 40 year old failed marriage, told by the appeal court that since her spouse didn’t want a divorce she couldn’t have one. This followed a failed bid in the family courts.

As one of the judges admitted in the extraordinary closing statement: “Parliament has decreed that it is not a ground for divorce that you find yourself in a wretchedly unhappy marriage, though some people may say it should be”.

(Incidentally, had Tini been in Scotland she could have instigated divorce proceedings within the first year of marriage should she have so wanted, and, even if her spouse objected, she could have been divorced within two years rather than the five still demanded by the English courts.)

But the overarching point is whether she should ever have had to fight that very personal battle in several courts of law at all. Self evidently divorce on demand without safeguards would be a dangerous route to go down.

There has to be the kind of negotiation and mediation which allows for fair financial consequences and the protection and support of any children involved. But when a person has ceased to live with or love a spouse of 40 years standing then denying a formal burial of a dead relationship is a nonsense.

The second case is arguably more problematical; the decision of the Supreme Court that a court order should no longer be necessary where the relatives and doctors of someone in a persistent vegetative state agree to switch off life support.

There have been a number of these tragic cases over the years, just as there have been several attempts by patients suffering from conditions like motor neurone disease to have control over the time and manner of their own death.

In the latter cases no court has yet granted a permission which would prevent subsequent legal action.

Again it’s a balancing action between protection and intrusion.

The slippery slope card is always played here by those who consider they know better than the people actually involved with the day-to-day management of these awful situations.

I’ve long considered that being allowed to manage your own end of life where possible is no more than the conferring of dignity in death.

And I wouldn’t presume to second guess the torment of families with loved ones deemed beyond hope after months or years of something which could barely be called living.

Yet I’m haunted by a documentary made by a man suffering from what is known as “locked in syndrome” – unable to communicate, but able to hear earnest discussions about whether to discontinue his treatment.

You have to hope his was such an incredibly rare instance of misdiagnosis that it shouldn’t impact on decisions about those clearly beyond any meaningful recovery.