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16 August 2012

The Queen on the Application of Tony Nicklinson & Ministry of Justice CO/7774/2010

4 mins

Judgment was handed down today in Tony Nicklinson’s case. The leading Judgment is given by Lord Justice Toulson.

Regarding Tony Nicklinson’s claim that there should be a defence of necessity to a charge of murder by a doctor helping him when  he wishes to end his life, the court said that was a bold submission and it could not be supported because there was no decision of the court in any common law country to that effect.  That of course we know.  That is because Tony’s case is the first to raise that argument, so it is not surprising.

Whilst the judges accepted that courts can “adapt and develop the principles of the common law incrementally in order to keep up with the requirements of justice in a changing society” the court went on to say “changes involving matters of controversial social policy are for Parliament.”  However, this is hardly the first time a controversial case has come before the courts.

The court was also concerned about the consequences upon other members of society if Tony’s claim succeeds. However, no body presented any evidence about this.

The claim was therefore dismissed by the court.

Tony Nicklinson, receiving the judgment, said:

“I am devastated by the court’s decision. Although I didn’t want to raise my hopes, it happened anyway because a fantastic amount of work went into my case and I thought that if the court saw me as I am, utterly miserable with my life, powerless to do anything about it because of my disability then the judges would accept my reasoning that I do not want to carry on and should be able to have a dignified death. I am saddened that the law wants to condemn me to a life of increasing indignity and misery.”

Saimo Chahal, Solicitor for Tony Nicklinson said:

“It is understandably a very disappointing judgment as it provides very little hope for Tony. However, we always knew that there was a legal mountain to be climbed and the judgment leaves open grounds for appeal. Tony has already confirmed to me when I visited him yesterday that he wants to appeal the judgment and all parties in the case now know that this will now be happening. Tony’s legal team are ready to fight on and anticipate that the case will go to the Supreme Court via the Court of Appeal.”

The next stage of the case is that we will be preparing an application to appeal the decision and asking for the case to be expedited so that it can be heard by the Court of Appeal as soon as possible.

Tony’s health has deteriorated recently so that he is in a great deal of physical pain and discomfort. However, Tony is not prepared to give up his fight to establish this very important principle about the right to be able to die with dignity when he chooses and to have the same right as an able bodied person currently has.

We do not know when the Court of Appeal listing will be but hope that it might take place by Christmas. That is what we will be asking for.

Saimo Chahal also said :

“It is enlightening to read the judgment in the case of a parallel case which is taking place in Canada bought by a number of people who have applied to the court in Canada for the right to voluntary Euthanasia in certain circumstances subject to very strict safeguards. The Canadian court has declared unlawful aspects of the criminal code. The court has also permitted one of the Claimants to exercise the right to voluntary euthanasia with help from a doctor under strict safeguards. It is a great shame that such an approach has not been taken in this country when the arguments here are equally compelling.”

Counsel for Tony Nicklinson is Paul Bowen QC of Doughty Street Chambers.

Click here for the Judgment.

Please click on the links below for the related press coverage:

UK court to rule in ‘right to die’ case (CNN, 16 August 2012)

Nicklinson’s right to die case rejected by High Court (BBC, 16 August 2012)

Tony Nicklinson loses High Court right-to-die case (BBC, 16 August 2012)

Nicklinson right to die case: What next? (ITV News, 16 August 2012)

Sufferers Lose Landmark Right-To-Die Battle (Sky News, 16 August 2012)

‘Starving myself is preferable to a life like this’ (Channel 4 News, 16 August 2012)

Locked-in syndrome sufferers lose legal challenge over assisted dying  (The Independent, 17 August 2012)

Locked-in syndrome sufferer Tony Nicklinson loses right-to-die case (The Times, 16 August 2012)

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