Right-to-die campaigners Nicklinson and Lamb lose battle


Paul Lamb: "It's unfair and I think it's cruel"

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The family of late locked-in syndrome sufferer Tony Nicklinson and paralysed road accident victim Paul Lamb have lost their right-to-die challenges.

The Court of Appeal upheld a ruling that Mr Nicklinson had not had the right to ask a doctor to end his life. His widow is planning a further appeal.

Mr Lamb who won a battle to join the Nicklinson case also plans to appeal.

But a third paralysed man won his case seeking clearer prosecution guidance for health workers who help others die.

The man, known only as Martin, wants it to be lawful for a doctor or nurse to help him travel abroad to die with the help of a suicide organisation in Switzerland. His wife and other family want no involvement in his suicide.

Campaigners for right to die

  • The late Tony Nicklinson was paralysed from the neck down after suffering a stroke while on a business trip to Athens in 2005. After losing his High Court battle, he refused food and died, aged 58, a week later. His widow is continuing his fight.
  • Paul Lamb, 57, was paralysed from the neck down after a car accident in 1990. He says he endures pain every single day and does not want to keep living - but he has no way out.
  • The anonymous man - or "Martin" - suffered a massive stroke in August 2008, leaving him unable to speak and virtually unable to move. The 48-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, says his life is undignified, distressing and intolerable.

The director of public prosecutions, who would be required to clarify his guidance, is seeking to appeal to the Supreme Court against the decision in Martin's case.

Speaking by means of special computer software, Martin said he was "delighted" by the judgement.

"It takes me one step closer to being able to decide how and when I end my life. I am only unable to take my own life because of my physical disabilities.

"Almost every aspect of my daily life is outside of my control. I want, at least, to be able to control my death and this judgement goes some way to allow me to do this."

'Conscience of the nation'

In the Nicklinson and Lamb case, the decision centred on whether the High Court was right in originally ruling that Parliament, not judges should decide whether the law on assisted dying should change.

The three Court of Appeal judges unanimously dismissed Mrs Nicklinson and Paul Lamb's challenge.

In the judgement, the Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge said Parliament represented "the conscience of the nation" when it came to addressing life and death issues, such as abortions and the death penalty.

"Judges, however eminent, do not: our responsibility is to discover the relevant legal principles, and apply the law as we find it."

Mr Nicklinson was 58 when he died naturally at his home in Wiltshire last year. His widow Jane, who has continued his fight, told the BBC she was "very, very disappointed" by the ruling, but "not totally surprised".

She added: "We will carry on with the case for as long as we can so that others who find themselves in a position similar to Tony don't have to suffer as he did. Nobody deserves such cruelty.

"Although we lost, the legal team are quite pleased with the outcome - the appeal judges actually upheld a couple of points which the High Court rejected, which is a step forward."

'Too scared'

Paul Lamb wanted the law changed so any doctor who helped him die would have a defence against the charge of murder.

The 57-year-old from Leeds has been almost completely paralysed from the neck down since a car accident 23 years ago and says he is in constant pain.

"I was hoping for a humane and dignified end - this judgement does not give me that," he said.

Jane Nicklinson, Tony's widow: "It is such a grey area that needs to be clarified"

"I will carry on the legal fight - this is not just about me but about many, many other people who are being denied the right to die a humane and dignified death just because the law is too scared to grapple with these issues."

Saimo Chahal, the solicitor acting for Mrs Nicklinson and Mr Lamb, said there was "no prospect of Parliament adjudicating on the issue any time soon" so Paul's only option was to try to persuade the courts that his concerns were "real and legitimate".

But Dr Andrew Fergusson, of the Care Not Killing campaign group, welcomed the Nicklinson and Lamb ruling, saying: "All three judges were very clear on legal, and I think ethical, grounds as well, that the law, if it's to be changed, must be changed by parliament alone. The courts cannot do it."

The British Humanist Association, which has supported Mr Lamb's case, described the matter as the "most important bioethical issue of our time".

It said it should not fall to people who have "already suffered enough" to fight legal case after legal case. Instead, Parliament and government should be putting the work in on changing the law.

Sarah Wootton, of the Dignity in Dying campaign, urged for some parliamentary debate and for MPs to look at the private members' bill tabled by Lord Falconer for the legalisation of assisted suicide for the terminally ill in England and Wales.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    Perhaps it is time we looked to one of our neighbours in Europe and sought guidance. The Netherlands have a closely monitored system in which people can choose to die. It's very sad that our politicians are too afraid to contemplate a change in legislation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    I understand they are worried other people might feel pressured not to become a burden on others - but that is a completely different case to what these people are going through. These people are NOT living, they are existing - in some instances they can't even breathe unaided and if their only form of communication is with their eyes, what happens when those muscles give up?

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    I think the High Court was right in ruling that Parliament, not judges should decide whether the law on assisted dying should change.

    Nevertheless, that's not to say that current legislation right. The law needs to change. We should all be afforded dignity in death, at a time when we decide and with assistance if required. To allow unnecessary suffering is inhumane.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    "ribbed" obviously doesn't see a difference between an animal and a human! Looking at other countries, some of us are concerned whether this would be the start of a slippery slope to "death upon demand"

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    Quite simply these folk want the judges to change the law. That is wrong. What they want is illegal and all the court cases in the world is not going to make it so.

    They should spend their time trying to change the law in parliament. I know they are not millionaires/big business so it will be hard work. There are lots of issues to be resolved, and it will not be easy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    No government or institution has the right to dictate what a person hold's true to themselves.

    show some compassion and make allowances for someone in this type of situation to release themselves of an existence they find traumatising.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    If only those who make these decisions could step in to the shoes of those suffering for a few hours - they would see how inhumane NOT allowing someone the right to die is. What right has anyone else to say they are wrong to want to end their suffering.
    Should life end at a natural death regardless of what a person must endure?! This has nothing to do with religion but is all about humanity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    Unfortunate but no unsurprising given how the law works. Interesting to compare this HYS to recent ones on organ donation. Its amazing how many people believe doctors will harvest organs from people who would otherwise survive (especially for 'rich private patients'). With so many believing this nonsense its no wonder doctors DON'T want to be obliged to kill patients.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Cant imagine the suffering these poor people have to endure but i do agree with this decision. Human nature dictates that legalising assisted suicide will be abused and this denial is to protect the innocent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    While the liverpool care pathway was believed to be humane. Especially when the trusts were going to receive financial rewards to hit targets associated with the use of the care pathway.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    @3.The Ace Face
    "This is not good. I'm fed up of this government and its antisocial policies towards the majority of people in the UK and in 2015 they'll have the cheek to ask for our votes"

    I don't suppose it actually bothers you in the slightest that this was a judicial decision which has NOTHING whatsoever to do with the Government or its policies, does it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    20. RichardDay

    WELL SAID!!! People should have the choice to make their own minds, we do not live in a dictatorship.

    Its starting to feel like we are,sadly

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    My father died of Motor Neurone disease, His quality of life for the last 12 months was non existent yet he would not have enacted any right to die, however, if he had wanted any assistance to die i would have given it willingly, he was very active and hard working, and i know that ending up completely paralysed, as he did, destroyed any last vestige of interest in life that he had.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    It's high time the Judiciary and the Government grew up and gave the choice to people who wish to die. Who do they think they are to condemn people who have suffered enough to even more suffering with no way to end it?

    I'd be in trouble with the law if I let an animal suffer but apparently it's OK to do the same to a human.

    Absolutely disgraceful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Lets wait until a Senior Judge, House of Lords member or MP get into these such situations???

    Its about time the UK woke up and allowed people to be allowed to complete their lives in the way THEY WANT TO, not the way the Courts want them to.

    Its madness.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    I think it should down to the person and their loved ones, not the state or a judge. Not allowing them to pass away peacefully under medication is going to make them suffer for longer and they may loko to end things in a different way. As someone pointed out, I woouldn't let my dog live in that pain so why a loved one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    It's strange how the word "dignity" has been appropriated by euthanasia supporters. What could be less dignified than killing someone, or letting them do so?

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    There is overwhelming popular support in the UK for some kind of right-to-die measure, the problem is our Parliament kowtowing to the Daily Mail and the Lords Spiritual in the House of Lords constantly blocking this, its about time they were removed from the House of Lords, they have no place in the 21st century. It is incredibly cruel that people need to suffer like this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    I cannot understand how someone so unfortunate cannot have the right to die but a hospital can refuse treatment on the grounds of cost.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Pretty sad case with conflicting issues. Neither party are absolutley right but maybe this is one aspect of life where we need to fall on the individuals rights.

    The main reason against assisting to die is our mistrust in humanity.

    Would people manipulate the law?

    Let them RIP.

    As a society we will deal with humanities darker side through the courts


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