Is it our ‘human right’ to choose when to die?
The topic of euthanasia hasbeen thrust back into the media spotlight following a decision toreject a right-to-die challenge. The family of late Tony Nicklinsonand Paul Lamb have lost their right-to-die challenge at the Courtof Appeal.
Mr Lamb has no function in anyof his limbs apart from limited movement in his right handfollowing a car accident in 1990. The 58 year old from Leeds teamedup with the family of late Tony Nicklinson who died in 2012, tocontinue his fight for a doctor to end his life without fear ofprosecution, currently an offence under the Suicide Act1961.
Mr Lamb was hoping to win thecourt battle upon the same grounds that Mr Nicklinson hadpreviously sought declarations for.
In particular he asserted thatthere should be a defence of 'necessity' available to a doctor whomay be prepared assist him to die. He argued that the current law was incompatible with his right to respect for private andfamily life under Article 8 of the European Convention on HumanRights.
Mr Lamb's argument was that this Article of the Convention included a right toautonomy and self determination at the end of life. However, LordChief Justice Lord Judge, Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson and LordJustice Elias rejected the appeal and confirmed the legal positionas being that euthanasia amounts to the criminal offence ofmurder.
Speaking before the ruling MrsNicklinson said: "What we are hoping for is that people like Tonywho find themselves in such a terrible situation, as Paul Lambdoes, when they feel they have had enough, a doctor can take theirlife for them because they are unable to do itthemselves."
"It would be done on aone-by-one basis, each case would be heard by the courts andapproved by the courts before it could be carried out."
She added, "It would only befor patients who are so severely disabled that they cannot do itthemselves, but that are mentally competent to make the decisionfor themselves."
The counter argument is, ofcourse, that such a law will put pressure on disabled people whocould otherwise adapt or who have adapted to their circumstances tovolunteer to end their own life out of concern as to theeffect of their disability on their family. It could also beargued that such a law would simply be the "thin edge of the wedge"and open up different circumstances when it could be lawful for aDoctor to end a patient's life with the elderly and infirm beingtreated much like the family pet being euthanized by thevet.
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 tobe allowed to appeal to the Supreme Court."
This is obviously a legal andethical debate that will continue as long as there are peoplesuffering desperate medical conditions that have destroyedtheir quality of life and who wish to end their life.
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