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 213.


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

    If all killing is murder, then so is suicide. Should attempted suicide be treated as attempted murder?

  • rate this

    Comment number 212.

    I have a cousin who is terminally ill and days left to live. He is in constant pain even with morfin drip being given. This is not what we should be doing letting our loved ones suffer this way. The strain on the family is so great, we are just waiting for the phone call now. So very sad

  • rate this

    Comment number 211.

    What is humane or merciful or 'right' about forcing someone to live in torment? If someone has reached the stage where death is the preferred option then let them die.

  • rate this

    Comment number 210.

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

    Totally irrelevant.

    I have every sympathy with these people, knowing if I was suffering as they are I would probably want what they want. For this reason alone, I am tipped in the balance to support their fight.

  • rate this

    Comment number 209.

    This debate really brings out the nasty people:

    * Deny euthanasia because of a stupid slippery slope argument that doesn't exist in countries that ALREADY HAVE IT!

    * Invoke religious nonsense that says NOTHING about the modern world!

    * Use & abuse the Hippocratic oath - when doctors ARE ACTUALLY harming people by keeping them alive!

    There - I just destroyed your entire argument.


  • rate this

    Comment number 208.

    It's a shame this failed but I think the judges came to the correct conclusion based on the laws we currently have. I don't understand why these campaigners aren't focusing more on their MP's as they are the ones who will ultimately decide this. I wish them good luck in their fight for a basic human right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 207.

    153.Praise Him
    16 Minutes ago
    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.


    Yep clear as mud!

  • rate this

    Comment number 206.

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

    Psalm 34:17-20
    "When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles."

    It seems that's not really true - so we have to rely on doctors and the courts to hear our cries for help.

  • rate this

    Comment number 205.

    How absurd that the courts can outlaw assisted suicide when an individual has poor quality of life and WANTS TO DIE
    Yet no one has been prosecuted for killing people who WANT TO LIVE and are executed using the Liverpool Care Pathway using Gov backdoor euthanasia programme

  • rate this

    Comment number 204.

    The government passes stupid laws like gay marriage and refuses a suffering man to be relieved from unnecessary pain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 203.

    Why can't we get anything right anymore? We run scared of offending minority groups whether it be race, religion or general do-gooders.

    It's always the tail wagging the dog and we've lost the ability to make sense of the obvious.

    These Judges simply prolong the agony and pain for all concerned.

    Tragic and heart-breaking.

  • rate this

    Comment number 202.

    153.Praise Him
    "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."

    And what, pray, is "their time"?
    Surely if someone is being kept alive only by machines and medicines then they have exceeded their time?
    Please note - this is not approval for euthenasia, just a question.

  • rate this

    Comment number 201.

    While the thought of death horrifies me (as i scientist, i do not believe in an after life therefore scared of absolute nothingness) BUT if someone chooses to take their life then who are we to say no. These poor people have no influence in their own daily lives and they dont even have a choice with their physical life. who are WE to decied who lives or dies? Are we now claiming to be a diety!?

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    There are two standards at work here. If you want to take your life and are abled body we try to stop it from happening (e.g Samaritans) because your life is 'sacred'.
    If you are disabled and want to take your life then we're supposed to help you do it.
    Lets face it, the entire case is built upon the view that the disabled are to be pitied rather than respected as fully human.

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    Of all the human rights we do have, we don't have this one! We don't allow animals to suffer unnecessarily but we insist our fellow beings do even when they are able to state clearly their wishes. Next stop European Court of Human Rights I guess.

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    How can the legal system and indeed Parliament be so far out of touch with the views of the people of this country. This issue needs to be resolved urgently.

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.

    The law is an ass and so is the Court of Appeals.

    Your view is part of the problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    @153 Praise him

    Thank you for clearly embodying the delusion that is responsible for this miscarriage of justice.

    As for the efficacy of prayer, I'll believe in that when prayer miraculously restores an amputated limb.

    In the meantime, can you and your imaginary friend stopping telling me and other rational people how to live our lives.

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    Nobody has the right to tell you what to do with all/any aspect of your life/death. The governemment will not change its was thats why they will be out in the next election.
    The fact that people have to go through court to end THEIR life its like having to go to court to see if your allowed to open your front door... Its your choice nobody elses anyone who takes that choice from you is criminal

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    Animals get euphanised when they're suffering, why aren't humans allowed the same right?

    If a doctor is willing to carry it out and there are strict procedures (absolute certainty that this is the decision of the sufferer) then it should be legal.


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