Is it our 'human right' to choose when to die?
The topic of euthanasia has
been thrust back into the media spotlight following a decision to
reject a right-to-die challenge. The family of late Tony Nicklinson
and Paul Lamb have lost their right-to-die challenge at the Court
Mr Lamb has no function in any
of his limbs apart from limited movement in his right hand
following a car accident in 1990. The 58 year old from Leeds teamed
up with the family of late Tony Nicklinson who died in 2012, to
continue his fight for a doctor to end his life without fear of
prosecution, currently an offence under the Suicide Act
Mr Lamb was hoping to win the
court battle upon the same grounds that Mr Nicklinson had
previously sought declarations for.
In particular he asserted that
there should be a defence of 'necessity' available to a doctor who
may be prepared assist him to die. He argued that the current
law was incompatible with his right to respect for private and
family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human
Mr Lamb's argument was
that this Article of the Convention included a right to
autonomy and self determination at the end of life. However, Lord
Chief Justice Lord Judge, Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson and Lord
Justice Elias rejected the appeal and confirmed the legal position
as being that euthanasia amounts to the criminal offence of
Speaking before the ruling Mrs
Nicklinson said: "What we are hoping for is that people like Tony
who find themselves in such a terrible situation, as Paul Lamb
does, when they feel they have had enough, a doctor can take their
life for them because they are unable to do it
"It would be done on a
one-by-one basis, each case would be heard by the courts and
approved by the courts before it could be carried out."
She added, "It would only be
for patients who are so severely disabled that they cannot do it
themselves, but that are mentally competent to make the decision
The counter argument is, of
course, that such a law will put pressure on disabled people who
could otherwise adapt or who have adapted to their circumstances to
volunteer to end their own life out of concern as to the
effect of their disability on their family. It could also be
argued that such a law would simply be the "thin edge of the wedge"
and open up different circumstances when it could be lawful for a
Doctor to end a patient's life with the elderly and infirm being
treated much like the family pet being euthanized by the
Despite the ruling,
campaigners have vowed to keep fighting and Mrs Nicklinson stated:
"They're not going to get rid of us that easily. We will apply to
be allowed to appeal to the Supreme Court."
This is obviously a legal and
ethical debate that will continue as long as there are people
suffering desperate medical conditions that have destroyed
their quality of life and who wish to end their life.
Aaron Stevens & Paige Smith
Posted on: 01/08/2013
This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.
Back to News articles