Right-to-die campaigners Nicklinson and Lamb lose battle


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

Related Stories

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.


More on This Story

Related Stories


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    Perhaps we should be grateful that this issue has never been properly considered by our polititians... would we really want it to be decided by dodgy self-interested accountancy using fudged statistics to assess the net value of a life depending on 'who you know'?

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    A few yers ago I took the decision to have my beloved pet dog to sleep. Much as I loved her it was tearing me apart to see her suffer having had a type of stoke. I remember my dog with great love & affection, remembering all those things that she did that made me crease with laughter...she was so cheeky. We can make the choice for our pets, but not for ourselves, one must question the logic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.


    "Recently a man controlled a helicopter through thought alone."

    If ever I have the misfortune to suffer serious handicap, to require constant care, to know my nervous system is becoming desensitized to the morphine I need to keep the pain at bay, and to know I'm going to endure a few more decades of life I'll remember this. A remote control helicopter would make all the difference.

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    "166. BendyBen
    ...Only God takes life and although I feel deeply sorry for these men, they should feel welcome and wanted in society, rather than a burden, making them want to kill themselves."

    Ben, do you not wonder why, if there is a god, he would make people suffer in this way? It's not a question of burden; how can they feel wanted when they have no quality of life and suffer constant pain?

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    @173 is right...you all think it is so straightforward ,one way or the other.At what point does it become murder?This is a very delicate matter and it would be difficult for the courts to go back one a decision is made...look at the difficulty with abuse in Care Homes already..make this law and it could be difficult to prove illegal deaths.

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    166. It's not a matter of your God, and they don't want to kill themselves because they feel a burden, or unwelcome. There are people suffering tremendous pain who want the government to allow doctors to consent to helping end that pain by agreeing to help them die.

    Surely if we enforce a 4-doctor-agreement rule and similar safeguards then the law is fine. Time to petition the politicians.

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    I thought torture was illegal in Britain, apparently not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    Let the British people make that choice through a referendum, it is too important for a minority to decide.

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    It's ridiculous that it's illegal for people such as the late Tony Nicklinson, Paul Lamb and the like to be able to choose to die. Before medical knowledge enabled doctors to keep people in their position alive, they would die quite naturally anyway. It's only due to advances in medical science that the law - made long before it was possible to extend life - is able to hold such folk to ransom.

  • rate this

    Comment number 224.

    What right have human beings (be it lawmakers or not) got to deny a fellow human being their desire to end their live with assistance from others without the fear of prosecution. The law is wrong on this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    so its ok for them to live a horrible life is it ? let them live in pain for years wishing that they could die and get it over with, or we could let them die with no pain and no suffering and in a way that decide. I think 6 doctors should decide if its right to die and if they all agree then death should be made available

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    If we treated animals the same way we treated people, there would be prosecutions galore for cruelty, causing suffering. A dignified, as comfortable as possible end, that's what we would all prefer. Time to afford human dignity and respect equality with animals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    @173.Joe G

    It has everything to do with it though, because he's incapable of doing anything without help. He can't feed himself, or even do something as simple as go to the bathroom without assistance. He cannot choose to die by his own hand, someone has to help him.

    Sadly I see this guy suffering in the near future as his only alternative is to starve himself to death. Not a nice way to go

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.

    169. Del

    I'd take it a stage further. If I treated my animals in this way, I'd probably find myself in court for cruelty.

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.

    163. Vboulderer
    I think you are missing the point - it's about the right to choose to die
    We have the right to choose to die in this country: "Committing or attempting to commit suicide is not, however, of itself, a criminal offence" (cps.gov.uk). This is - at best - "Right-to-die-nicely".

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    Religious fanatics like #156 on this HYS are of course entitled to their opinions...they have no need to go down the route of an assisted,peaceful death at lifes' end. I would choose a different route, and I should be legally entitled to do this if I choose to do it. There should be NO religious element to it at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    @154 Luther_Wesley_Baxter

    I could have this totally wrong,but I seem to remember from previous forums that you are a religious person.To hear a person with religious beliefs say what you have said is extremely heartening.

  • rate this

    Comment number 216.

    Inevitable, the political class will never let us do the right thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 215.

    153. Praise Him

    I'm sure they will be so grateful for you praying for them while they are suffering unimaginable pain and suffering day after day after day... What about the fact that your prayers seem to be going unanswered? What about the fact that despite your prayers, the suffering of these poor people goes on and on? Why doesn't HE end their suffering?

  • rate this

    Comment number 214.

    People who need help to end their misery can't; criminal bankers destroy the economy and no-one in jail; rapists DNA being deleted; prison officers in trouble for restraining Rigby's killer.

    The world is upside down.


Page 22 of 33


More Health stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.