UK court of appeal washes hands of euthanasia issue

Court rejects cases taken by man paralysed by a car crash and family of another unable to move after stroke

Paul Lamb: “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.” Photograph: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire

Paul Lamb: “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.” Photograph: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire

Thu, Aug 1, 2013, 01:00


Politicians, not judges must decide if the United Kingdom’s ban on helping the terminally-ill to die should change, the Court of Appeal in London has ruled, rejecting cases taken by a man paralysed by a car crash and the family of another unable to move after a stroke.

Dismissing the appeal by Paul Lamb (57) and the family of the now-deceased Tony Nicklinson (58), three judges said Mr Nicklinson had not been entitled to ask doctors to end his life.

Application rejected
Mr Nicklinson, paralysed from the neck down by a stroke in 2005, refused food and died after contracting pneumonia a week after High Court judges rejected his right-to-die application three years ago.

Saying he would bring the battle to the Supreme Court, Mr Lamb, left unable to move, bar tiny movements in his right hand, after a car crash in 1990, said the judges had denied him hope of “a humane and dignified” end.

“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,” he said.

Both men would have needed someone to help them die. However, as the law in the UK stands, anyone who does so could be prosecuted, even if there is little appetite for such a prosecution.

In the lead judgment in the ruling, Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge said the Houses of Parliament represented “the conscience of the nation” in life and death matters, not the judiciary, however, eminent.

“Euthanasia involves not merely assisting another to commit suicide, but actually bringing about the death of that other,” he declared.