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.
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.
‘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.”
Widow Jane Nicklinson told the BBC she was “very, very disappointed” by the ruling, but “not totally surprised”.
“They are not going to get rid of us that easily,” she said, as she explained she would be seeking permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.
She added that it was a very complicated legal matter.
“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.”
Mr Nicklinson died naturally at his home in Wiltshire last year.
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.
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.”
Geoffrey Robertson QC said: “The judges feel very sympathetic to people who are dying and want to speed their end – as everyone would.
“Judges, much as they would like to, can’t make the law conform with humanity if the law is clear and parliament hasn’t acted.”