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UK judicial proceedings on dying with dignity cases

UK judicial proceedings on dying with dignity: verdicts from Court of Apeals on Nicklinson, Lamb and ‘Martin’ cases.
The family of Tony Nicklinson and 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.

A third paralysed man, a massive stroke in August 2008 left him unable to speak and virtually unable to move and known only as ‘Martin’, won his case seeking clearer prosecution guidance for health workers who help others die. He 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.

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.”

Lord Dyson, Master of the Rolls, and Lord Justice Elias, upheld Martin’s complaint that “the policy of the DPP fails to provide sufficient clarity” on the issue. Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, sitting with them, disagreed as he believed it was already clear that someone acting out of compassion would not be prosecuted.Richard Stein, a partner at the law firm Leigh Day, who represented Martin, said: “This is a crucial victory for Martin and those other people who find themselves in this tragic position”.