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 653.

    Here have samuri sword nwo can commit suicide with pride and joy first take knife stick into belly move from side to side Must not show emtions very bad this if show emotion No cut wrists makes to much mess Instead Be strong samuri warrior Just Like Dave who sit watch Samuri all the time Practice long time in bed of fleas He very strong samuri warrior ready for huige battle

  • rate this

    Comment number 652.

    @651 toorie

    Are you suggesting we should shoot humans to death just because of a broken leg? This is exactly why today's decision is the right one. You Euthanasia supporters are way too trigger happy!

  • rate this

    Comment number 651.

    If it was a horse with a broken leg you would shoot it,
    if it was cat or dog you would take it to the vet to be put down
    If it was a human being ........................well just let it die in agony.

  • rate this

    Comment number 650.

    645. dodger
    why are none of our so called representatives willing to change the law

    Not difficult really. You can't have a law that legalises murder. If one of my family was in this position I'd place a bag over their head when then were asleep and none would be the wiser. Not a great way to go but that's life, the laws an ass but its an ass for a reason.

  • rate this

    Comment number 649.

    621.IR - " The Government can change the law in a breath when it suits....and take forever when it doesn't. It is a sad day for humanity"

    Would you really want 'assisted suicide' Law rushed through Parliament with no debate or discussion?

    There are some very fundamental legal\moral issues to be resolved and we don't even have agreement on this HYS of just 600+ Comments

  • rate this

    Comment number 648.

    What the judges are saying is parliament needs to change the law. So will our elected representatives do so is the correct question. I don't see how the judges can have acted other than as they did. The courts interpret not make the law.

  • rate this

    Comment number 647.

    Most opposed to the concept of right to die have no concept of what those affected by really live.
    We see people paralysed but unless exposed to the day to day reality of someone's life we have no concept of what its really like.
    Who can imagine not being able do the most basic of tasks such as scratch an itch? Its not for us to take away their right to choose.

  • rate this

    Comment number 646.

    It seems to me that people with serious disabilities are being discriminated against and their human rights impinged. If we all have a right to life then we also have a right to end that life. If someone is physically unable to do so, but can sanely voice that they wish to end their suffering, surely we have a collective moral responsibility to uphold their right to self determination.

  • rate this

    Comment number 645.

    Hundreds of comments in favour of the right to die, why are none of our so called representatives willing to change the law. Surely it's time for all of us in favour to get the lawmakers to change the law, if only voting made a difference, anyone have any ideas .

  • rate this

    Comment number 644.

    You should have the right to die, if you suffer. I don't mind getting old, what worries me is what I will die of and left to suffer for years. That would be torture.

  • rate this

    Comment number 643.

    My aunt had Alzheimer's and arterial disease. Her last days were spent lying in a cot, her leg black from the knee down, staring into nothingness and slowly rotting away. If she'd been a dog, we would have put her out of her misery. These judges and our politicians should visit some of these homes for the living dead and then consider their stance. What kind of society is so cruel?

  • rate this

    Comment number 642.

    It is very sad to see people suffer. The problem with passing any law that supports assisted suicide is that people just can't be trusted. History shows this in all aspects of life, and it is because of this fact that emotional knee jerk reactions must be countered by wise logic. The casualtiies are usually the innocent but the alternative is too terrifying to contemplate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 641.

    Lifes wonderful...society stinks..your owned, get used to it.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 640.

    Hangfire - you've hit the nail on the head there!

  • rate this

    Comment number 639.

    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.

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


    I personally pray that you never find yourself in this position, mate. I'd wonder how far your peity would go?

  • rate this

    Comment number 638.

    637. macca

    If you believe in God, and believe God is responsible for our illnesses and infirmities - then why would you not also believe God is responsible for the inspirations behind our "modern medicines"?

  • rate this

    Comment number 637.

    It's very interesting to say god should decide when people die. In a lot of situations, God made his/her decision a long time ago when you had your heart attack, stroke etc. It is modern medicine that keeps people alive, not god. It is incredibly hypocritical to say we can decide to keep people alive but people can't decide when and how they die. Why are peoples moral beliefs being imposed on me?

  • rate this

    Comment number 636.

    So the UK courts have given the go ahead to continue torturing these people .How do these judges sleep at night.
    What a cruel lot!

  • rate this

    Comment number 635.

    The UK has an unwritten constitution, made up statues, judgements and convention. Reminds me of a HR handbook i made up of 8 years worth of E-mails and printed letters... because HR couldn't get their act together and formalise the rules properly. And equally as useless.
    High time this all was codified properly -- so the Supreme Court and Court of appeals can do their job properly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 634.

    628. Richmich

    The "we euthenase our pets" analogy is deeply flawed. None of us "know" our pets have asked (or desire) to be euthenased, we simply (in our arrogance, pretending it is compassion) make that decision for them. Such decisions are for OUR benefit - not the sick animal. Likewise, the 'compassion' arguments for assisted suicide are for the benefit of those surviving the deceased.


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