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16 May 2013

Judgment reserved on right-to-die cases heard at Court of Appeal

3 mins

Paul Lamb, 57, who is paralysed, and Jane Nicklinson, the wife of the late Tony Nicklinson are seeking to appeal the August 2012 decision of the Divisional Court refusing the claims of Tony Nicklinson. They want any doctor who assists Paul Lamb to end his life to be legally protected.  Saimo Chahal is representing Paul and Jane.

Paul is confined to a wheelchair and is paralysed from the neck down, following a road accident in 1990.  He says that in the last 23 years he has endured significant pain, grief and distress which is ongoing and only likely to get worse. He has given life his best shot and is now worn out, fed up and trapped leading a dull monotonous life which he no longer wants to live.  He wants a doctor to have the common law defence of ‘necessity’ against any possible murder charge if they help him to carry out his wish to a peaceful and dignified death.

At present anyone assisting him in any way would face a murder charge.  This law needs to be changed.  He does not expect a doctor to help him until the law has been changed.

Earlier this month the Court of Appeal heard the appeals. Paul is asking the court to make advance Declarations that what he wants is legal so that a doctor helping him would be protected and know in advance that s/he is safe from prosecution.  He forced to go to court because Parliament refuses to grapple with these issues.

Jane has taken over the Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the Right to Respect for Private and Family Life) claims in her own right and as the administrator of the estate of Tony Nicklinson. 

Paul is pursuing both the Article 8 claims in his own right as well as the claim that the common law defence of necessity should be available to a charge of murder where a doctor assists a person such as himself to end his life.

The case was heard by three judges, the Master of the Rolls, the Lord Chief Justice and Lord Justice Elias.  The court has reserved judgment and is expected to make a decision in the next few weeks.


Euthanasia in the EU Region

In April Saimo Chahal was invited by the European Law Students’ Association to give a lecture on “Euthanasia in the EU Region – a legal, political and medical comparison between the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and the UK” at the University of Maastricht, the Netherlands.

The conference was an initiative by the European Law Students’ Association (ELSA) with speakers from Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, the Czech Republic and Holland as well as Saimo from the UK. 

Saimo spoke about the cases of Debbie Purdy, Tony Nicklinson and now Paul Lamb, each of which has sought to develop the law and the rights of individuals to die a dignified death at a moment of their choosing. 

The Dutch euthanasia law came into existence 40 years ago and is based on discussion, debate, compromise and pragmatism, in sharp contrast to the English system, where the issue has had to be addressed through litigation and where doctors have taken a back seat due to fear of repercussions.

For further information please contact:

Saimo Chahal on 0207 833 4433 or email s.chahal@bindmans.com or another member of our Public Law and Human Rights team.
 

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