“Right to die” battle taken to the supreme court


The widow of a man with locked-in syndrome and a paralysed former builder are fighting for the right to die in the supreme court.

Jane Nicklinson and Paul Lamb (above) have gone to the supreme court seeking a ruling that disabled people should have the right to be helped to die with dignity.

Nine justices are analysing the issue at a hearing in London expected to last four days and are due to announce a ruling next year.

A spokesman for the court said justices were being asked to decide if a prohibition on assisted suicide as outlined in the 1961 Suicide Act was compatible with the right to respect for private and family life enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.

The pair have argued that the law should include a "defence of necessity" and that doctors should be allowed to assist suicide when people have a "voluntary, clear, settled and informed" wish to end their life but are unable do so without medical assistance.

Written By: 4 News
continue to source article at channel4.com


  1. I see there is a little progress against state enforced suffering, but it is being opposed by the usual suspects and legal vested interests.


    Legal permission will no longer be required to end care for patients in a permanent vegetative state, a judge has ruled.

    Until now a judge must also consent, even if medics and relatives agree to withdraw nutrition from a patient.

    But in what been described as a landmark decision, those cases will no longer have to come to court.

    The Official Solicitor, appointed by the state to act for such patients, is likely to appeal against the ruling.

    Doctors are able to withdraw treatment from a patient – if relatives consent – under various circumstances without needing court approval.

    Mr Justice Jackson, who sits in the Court of Protection, made his ruling in a case concerning a 50-year-old woman who suffered from a degenerative illness for 14 years.

    The patient, known in court as M, had Huntington’s disease and was bed-ridden in hospital and fed by a tube.

    She had shown no sign of awareness for 18 months, the court heard, and Mr Justice Jackson agreed with her family and doctors that withdrawing nutrition from her would be in her best interests.

    The tube was removed and she died in August.

    Mr Justice Jackson said in his view the case should not have come to court.

    “The decision about what was in M’s best interests is one that could lawfully have been taken by her treating doctors, having fully consulted her family and having acted in accordance with the MCA (Mental Capacity Act) and with recognised medical standards,” the judgement said.

    Analysis: Clive Coleman, BBC legal affairs correspondent

    So long as relatives agree, and it’s in the best interests of a patient in a minimally conscious or vegetative state, doctors can withdraw all sorts of treatment that will result in the end of someone’s life.

    These include, for instance, the withdrawal of life-saving dialysis. Doctors do not need the permission of a court to be able to do this.

    However, withdrawing food and water – the most basic requirements for life – has been handled differently, and for many years has needed the approval of a court.

    It’s been treated as an exception, in part, perhaps, because of the emotional and psychological significance of the decision to remove sustenance from a person.

    This has resulted, some experts believe, in individuals spending longer on life support in a vegetative state than was necessary because hospitals have shied away from going to court due to the expense and bureaucracy involved.

    Today’s ruling makes clear that as things stand, courts need not be involved in these sorts of cases, so long as doctors and families are in agreement, and the removal of food and water are in the best interests of the patient.

    Mr Justice Jackson said that even in M’s case – when family and doctors agreed – legal costs reached £30,000.

    Law firm Irwin Mitchell, which represented M, described Mr Justice Jackson’s ruling as a “landmark” decision for a “previously unclear” law.

    A spokesman said: “The family argued that major life and death decisions happen every day in hospital and do not always need to come before the court. NHS doctors supported this argument.”

    For nearly 25 years, these decisions have been referred to the Court of Protection, even where doctors and families agree.

    This followed a House of Lords ruling that Tony Bland, who was left in a persistent vegetative state after suffering severe brain damage in the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, should be allowed to die.

    Wednesday’s ruling removes this exception and paves the way for a change in the way such cases are handled by hospitals.

    Sarah Wootton, chief executive of the campaign group Compassion in Dying, said the ruling was “a helpful step towards a clearer, more person-centred view of end-of-life care”.

    “When all parties – family, the hospital and treating doctors – are agreed on what someone would have wanted for their care, it seems absurd to require a costly court process to confirm this.”

    Research by the BBC established last year that there were more than 100 patients in England and Wales in permanent vegetative or minimally conscious states.

    One patient had been in this condition for more than 20 years.

  2. Alan

    Sarah Wootton, chief executive of the campaign group Compassion in Dying, said the ruling was “a helpful step towards a clearer, more person-centred view of end-of-life care”.

    As Sarah Wootton says, it’s a helpful step toward death with dignity but still, the time it takes for a patient to starve to death or die from lack of water must be excruciating for the family and the patient. This is not a kind death. I hope that once this step forward is established then the medical and ethical community will proceed on to acceptance of a truly compassionate death that could be achieved with a high dose of barbiturates. Last I heard, the state of Oregon uses a high dose of Seconal to achieve death with dignity.

  3. LaurieB #2
    Sep 21, 2017 at 8:54 am

    Last I heard, the state of Oregon uses a high dose of Seconal to achieve death with dignity.

    Assisted suicide is legal in Oregon and in Switzerland.

    There are various discussions on this topic.




  4. Yes, Alan, good discussions of this issue and based on the resistance from certain quarters, many more to come. We are in a murky situation with this due to the legal framework inching along, dragging behind the obvious ethically correct solution. Progressives leading the reactionary masses by the nose to a solution that, in the end, is in everyone’s best interest!

    Social change needs the law to establish legal framework first and then activists will drag the public opinion around to acceptance. All of the “rights revolutions”* worked it like this.

    Rights revolutions refers to Pinker’s book *Better Angels. Five rights revolutions; Women’s rights, children’s rights, gay rights, animal’s rights, civil rights.

  5. From:


    Current Death with Dignity Laws

    Five states and Washington, D.C., have Death with Dignity statutes:

    California (End of Life Option Act; 2016)

    Colorado (End of Life Options Act; 2016)

    District of Columbia (Death with Dignity Act; 2017)

    Oregon (Oregon Death with Dignity Act; 1994/1997)

    Vermont (Patient Choice and Control at the End of Life Act; 2013)

    Washington (Washington Death with Dignity Act; 2008)

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