The judgment was handed down at 10am today and is now available here
On Monday 13 and Tuesday 14 May 2013 the Court of Appeal heard the appeals of Paul Lamb and Jane Nicklinson. The case was heard by a court comprising the Master of the Rolls, the Lord Chief Justice and Lord Justice Elias.
What the court had to consider
The court heard both appeals against the claim of Tony Nicklinson which was dismissed in August 2012. The court met to decide whether the judgment of the Divisional Court was right or wrong to dismiss the claims of Tony Nicklinson seeking Declarations that there should be a defence of necessity available to a doctor assisting him to die and that the current law of murder is incompatible with his right to respect for private and family life under Article 8, which he argued includes a right to autonomy and self determination at the end of life.
Jane Nicklinson has taken over the Article 8 claims in her own right and as the Administratrix of the estate of Tony Nicklinson.
Paul Lamb was 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.
What the judgment says
1. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeals of Jane Nicklinson and Paul Lamb (“the Appellants”) challenging the current interpretation of the law of assisted suicide and euthanasia. At present, a person who assists another person to commit suicide commits the offence of assisted suicide, while a person who carries out euthanasia commits the offence of murder. It is no defence to either assisted suicide or murder that the deceased person was in unbearable suffering and had made a competent request for assistance to die. In assisted suicide cases the Director of Public Prosecutions (“DPP”) must consent to a prosecution, but this safeguard does not apply in murder/euthanasia cases.
2. The main issue in the appeals was whether the Courts should apply human rights law to introduce defences to the criminal offences which would otherwise be committed by a person who helped another person to end their life. The Appellants argued that this was necessary to avoid a violation of their fundamental rights of autonomy and dignity, protected both by the right to private life in Article 8 of the Convention and by the common law. They argued that deciding how and when to die is an integral part of a person’s private life and that it was disproportionate to maintain a blanket ban on assisted dying which prevented a person enduring unbearable suffering from taking their own life with the assistance of another person.
3. The Court of Appeal accepted that the current law constitutes an interference with the Appellants’ common law and Article 8 rights, but held that the blanket ban on assisted dying (and euthanasia) was proportionate and therefore justified, relying upon the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in Pretty v UK. However, in doing so the Court of Appeal disagreed with the judgment of Lord Brown and Lady Hale in the earlier House of Lords’ case of Purdy, who had interpreted Pretty v UK to mean that the blanket ban was only proportionate because of the DPP’s discretion to prosecute and that in some cases, therefore, a risk of prosecution might infringe a person’s Article 8 rights. The central issue for the Supreme Court, if permission to appeal is granted, will be to resolve these conflicting interpretations of the decision in Pretty. The Court of Appeal accepted that, if it was wrong in its interpretation of Pretty v UK, a criminal defence should be available to a person who assists another like Tony Nicklinson or Paul Lamb to end their life.
The Court of Appeal has granted the Appellants permission to appeal to the Supreme Court which it is hoped will take this opportunity to resolve these fundamentally important issues, both under the Human Rights Act and under common law.
You can read the full judgment here.
Saimo Chahal, (the solicitor acting for Jane Nicklinson and Paul Lamb, said:
“It is inevitably disappointing for my clients that the court has decided against them. They are considering grounds of appeal to the Supreme Court. It is literally a life and death issue for Paul and there is no prospect of Parliament adjudicating on the issue any time soon-so there is but one option open to Paul and that is to try and persuade the courts that his concerns are real and legitimate. They are also shared by thousands of other people who want this issue to be resolved. It is wrong that people should be condemned to a lifetime of misery when they want to die. It is wrong that a good death should be denied to people in Paul’s situation.”
Paul Lamb said:
“I am absolutely gutted by the decision. I was hoping for a humane and dignified end. This judgment does not give me that. 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.”
Counsel for Paul Lamb is Paul Bowen QC of Doughty Street Chambers, London.
Nobody will be attending court today because there is no hearing but simply a handing down of the judgment – so there is no need to go to the court.
Paul Lamb, Jane Nicklinson and Lauren Nicklinson are available for interview at their homes. Please be aware Paul and Jane in particular will be extremely busy and it would be best to book a time for any interviews with them in advance. The following people are available to discuss the cases:
Contact Jonathan Robinson at Bindmans LLP for all interviews with Paul.
Tel: 020 7833 4433
Mob: 07500 553 794
Tel: 012 2570 0827
Mob: 07929 662 561
Saimo Chahal (Solicitor acting for Jane Nicklinson and Paul Lamb)
Please email only in the first instance.
Also, there are five people who have given statements in support of Paul Lamb’s case, all in circumstances where they want a doctor to assist them to end their lives. The following supporters are available to speak to the press by email or phone:
Tel: 07881 344 873
016 1282 7839 or 07859 882 710
Please click on the links below for the related media coverage:
Right-to-die campaigners Nicklinson and Lamb lose battle (BBC News, 31 July 2013)
Right-To-Die: Nicklinson And Lamb Lose Appeal (Sky News, 31 July 2013)
'Even though Tony has gone, I want to keep on fighting' (ITV News, 31 July 2013)
Court rejects right to die pleas (ITN News, 31 July 2013)
Saimo Chahal (BBC, 31 July 2013)
Paul Lamb (BBC, 31 July 2013)
Jane Nicklinson (BBC, 31 July 2013)
Right-to-die battle: court of appeal rejects paralysed man's case (The Guardian, 31 July 2013)
Paralysed man fights on for 'dignified death' (Daily Express, 1 August 2013)
I don't want sympathy in life, I want dignity in death (The Guardian, 31 July 2013)
Barbaric and inhumane: Paralysed man Paul Lamb hits back after judges dismiss his right-to-die appeal (The Independent, 31 July 2013)
Comment: Case for assisted dying is overwhelming (The Independent, 31 July 2013)
Right-to-die fight: Paralysed dad Paul Lamb carrying on Tony Nicklinson's battle (The Mirror, 31 July 2013)
Right-to-die campaigners vow to fight on despite losing Court of Appeal battle (The Mirror, 31 July 2013)
Suicide, murder and the courts (BBC News, 31 July 2013)
Doctors may get guidance to help patients take own lives (The Times, 31 July 2013)
Right-to-die: law must clarify whether doctors can aid euthanasia (Telegraph, 31 July 2013)
Judges uphold ruling that doctors cannot help paralysed man end his life (BMJ, 1 August 2013)