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 153.

    No one should die before their time. The Bible is very clear about this.

    1 Corinthians 3:16-17
    For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.

    Ecclesiastes 7:17
    Be not overly wicked, neither be a fool. Why should you die before your time?

    I appreciate these people might be in pain and suffering, but that is all the more reason to pray for them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    My sympathy goes out to these poor people, to deny them the right to end to suffering something you would not deny your pet is an injustice that needs correcting.
    Yes we need safeguards, but we seem to just stall and wring our hands each time this issue is addressed.
    Someone needs to take action.

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    After watching the documentary about Tony Nicklinson I felt that they have a right to end their own life, should they wish to do so. It is horrible to think that some people will resort to starving themselves simply because no one is legally allowed to assist them. What's wrong with allowing their situation to be assessed and conculding each case on its own merits?

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    If an animal was allowed to live in constant pain the owner would be prosecuted. Why is it considered ok for a human to live in pain when he/she is capable of asking for assistance to die?

  • Comment number 149.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    There Are No Devils In Hell, They Are All Here.

    Why do we feel the need to prolong the suffering of a man who wishes to die? He seems to be sound of mind and want's to put an end to a painful existence.

    It should be his choice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    Once again we see how vested religious interest takes precedence over what most of us want. It is time we had a secular state, then those with a god to follow could do what they wanted to without imposing their creed on us non believers.
    I have as much right not to believe as they have to believe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    I am watching my mum die a slow and humiliating life. She begs me to let her go but she is in a nursing home and is being looked after well, under the circumstances. I think there needs to be some sort of ownership of your own life given back to people. In this society we would never let an animal suffer so why are we insisting that a human being is to remain in this world and not have peace.

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    I know the law is bent over here but for the poor chap who has struggled for 23 years isn't it easier if he just went to Sweden? Sometimes when you want things that are not legal in the country you reside you go to other counties to get it. It's a lot quicker than a ton of court battles at least.

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    Clearly this shows we have as much say in death as we do over our own lives. It is inhumane to allow or thru inaction allow a person to go on living in torture or agony when they themselves have expressed a desire and come to the very difficult and brave decision to call it a day. We dont hesitate to kill a horse with a broken leg or a dog if treatment is cost prohibitive. Why cant we choose?

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    I recently talked this through with my son who is studying the moral case at school.

    I asked him to consider that any physically fit person is free to end their life; that a mentally sound person can refuse treatment that keeps him alive but a disabled person can't have the help he wants to die.

    Seems a pretty fine line to me provided the helper is free and willing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    If we let our pets live when they were suffering like this we would be prosecuted for cruelty ... yet we let these people who want to die struggle on - what an inhumane society we have become. People have the right to life but they must also have the right to choose not to have life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    Everyone is missing the major point here. The decision has not been made due to religion, the problem is that the court has to legally allow SOMEONE ELSE to take a life (legalise murder)

    All well and good that you want to die, but if you can't end your own life, then technically someone has to end it for you!

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    Why is it called right to die when what you are really talking about Is avoiding prosecution for killing someone, otherwise called murder.

    The vulnerable need protection, how would you feel when ill or elderly if family and society are saying you are a burden and want you to agree to a doctor killing you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    I believe this is the right decision.

    If even 1 exception is made it could open the flood gates to who knows what.

    No matter how water tight the legislation there will be those that will try to abuse it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    Some religious people of Christian, Muslim, Jewish faith etc. have their views over euthanasia; however, most people in this country find these views to be irrelevant and out-dated. Medicine has moved on from when most religious books were (allegedly) written. Decision making has to remain current with medical advances not ancient religious dogma.

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    83.TruthTyper - " .....The argument shouldn't be if someones standard of life so bad, that they should be able to commit suicide. It should be, how can we help that person"

    And in what way do you suggest that Tony Nicklinson might have been 'helped'?

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    theres been more people murdered, tortured to death, and crimes carried out in the name or politics /religion. its ironic the that its the church/politicians who are standing in the way of people who've suffered enough and want to leave this world with some dignity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    We need a club, or association, of people with terminal conditions. If you have 6 months to live but are still able, help someone to die - you won't be jailed. Someone in the club will help you later.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    Amazing how Human Rights only go one way in this country.

    What could be more humane than letting the terminally ill choose to die in a dignified and pain-free manner?


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