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 193.

    Law over morality as usual

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

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

    The bible is also very clear that you should not cut the hair on the side of your head or eat swine, yet there are a lot of hair dressers and supermarkets. Please stop spouting outdated, antiquated rules form a book that has itself caused the death of millions before their time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    When the Abortion Act was making its way through parliament, the powerful argument was put forward that it was not about whether abortions should take place but whether they should take place in hospitals or in squalid back-streets.

    I see a similar case arising over the right to die as our population ages and some unfortunate people face decades of infirmity and pain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    The bible says you shouldn't die before your time - it doesn't say you must be kept alive artificially long after your time

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    "I believe this is the right decision."

    I take it you aren't paralysed from the neck down then, maybe if you was you'd have a different opinion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    I've notice an obsession with the medical profession and scientific communities especially, to keep people alive long after they time is done. My mates nan, 107, blind, deaf, emobile, can't remember anything....spent 8 years as a living vegetable....but they kept giving her more and more drugs to keep her alive...for god sake just let them die

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    Go on the Iverpool death pathway - dead in 3 days...shame about the 130K elderly who were not terminally ill or even asked if they wanted to die, isnt it? None of their families can get legal aid to fight for the right to live though...yet you get all those benefits AND a pointless court case in which a judge was forced to repeat what was said in previous cases.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    Unless you are in the situation then I don't think everyone can understand it. It must be horrible to be locked inside yourself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    This is all about a remote and emotionally detached legal system establishing that it knows better about the individual’s interest than the individual actually involved and on the receiving end.

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    It's ironic, we deny people the right to end suffering and prolong their lives, at the same time denying people the access to life extending drugs and treatment.
    Go figure

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    If I keep my Cat alive in such a state, the RSPCA would quite rightly prosecute me.

    In this case, the judge should be changed with causing unnecessary suffering. So for pity's sake give people the dignity they deserve.

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    All they need to do is set up a direct debit to the government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    "Clearly, the thought of suicide is a mental illness and is not present in a sane individual."

    There is a huge difference between saying "I want to kill myself" and saying "Please let me die".
    Clearly, you don't understand this.
    I hope you never have to, but come to the realisation through applying rational thought and compassion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    "Clearly, the thought of suicide is a mental illness and is not present in a sane individual."
    Which may be true for someone in otherwise good health. For Lamb & Nickelson etc death sooner rather than later is inevitable. They want the choice between quick & painless & slow and lingering. I work in a cancer unit so greatly sympathise with their viewpoint.

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    There are clearly exceptions to every rule. This is it.
    These poor people all they want to do is not have to have there families burdened with there suffering.
    This is the 21st Century, lets start living in it, not with 18 Century Laws.

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    If you quality of life is so bad and you are of sound mind then if you want to end your life with dignity that should be your own decision.

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    The question "Do you want us to keep your father's life support switched on?" is a legal question. When the answer is "No", that's it - over.

    The question "Do you want to end your father's suffering?" not allowed.

    The question "Do you want to end your own suffering?" is also not allowed.

    Pettiness at the highest levels of pomposity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    Recently a man controlled a helicopter through thought alone. The money wasted in court trying to keep someone alive against their will would be far better spent on research to improve their lives.
    Even if it means they can take their own lives without others intervention.

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    A simple answer in theory but hideously difficult to put into practice

    The problem is one of trying to balance between doing the right thing whilst ensuring that doing so does not open the door to

    a) non prosecutable murder

    b) Pressuring a sufferer to end their life when they otherwise would not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    Wrong decision IMO. Forcing someone to live with no quality of life is surely akin to torture if they wish to die.
    Strangely though it is legal for relatives of someone kept alive by machines to allow them be turned off if medical advice says recovery is unlikely or likely to result in loss of quality of life if it does occur.
    I know - hardest decision I have ever made.


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