Strong case for assisted dying made in final day of Nicklinson/Lamb Court of Appeal case

The Court of Appeal today heard the final day of evidence in widely publicised case of Jane Nicklinson, the widow of Tony Nicklinson, who sought an assisted death and Paul Lamb, immobilised after a road accident and seeking the right to an assisted death. The British Humanist Association (BHA) is also a party to the case, as an intervener represented by Yogi Amin and Conor Maguire (Irwin Mitchell), and Rebecca Trowler QC and Caoilfhionn Gallagher (Doughty Street Chambers) on the side of assisted dying.

In August 2012 the Divisional Court dismissed Tony Nicklinson’s claim. He died less than a week later, on 22 August 2012. He had argued that the current state of the law breaches his rights under Article 8 ECHR and that the common law defence of ‘necessity’ should be available to a charge of murder in a situation such as his, to permit a doctor to assist him in ending his life where the court had in advance sanctioned this step being taken. His widow Jane Nicklinson, now joined by Paul Lamb, are through this hearing seeking to have the Divisional Court’s ruling set aside and for the case to be sent back to be heard before a fresh panel of Judges.

Andrew Copson, BHA Chief Executive, commented ‘The brave individuals bringing these cases are overcoming great personal tragedies in order to advance justice and bring about a more humane society and we are proud to be parties to their cases in support of them. When a mentally competent adult is suffering incurably, is permanently incapacitated, and has made a clear and informed decision to end their life but is unable to do so independently, simple compassion calls out to us to give assistance – it’s the right thing to do. That’s what the overwhelming majority of the British public believe, and we think the law should reflect that.’

The cases being heard this week, which focus on the right of those incurably suffering but not terminally ill to receive assistance in ending their lives, comes just a day ahead of the introduction in the House of Lords of a Private Member’s Bill to legalise assisted dying in the more limited circumstances of terminal illness. Over the next two days the BHA will be supporting the AM/Martin case which is also being heard in the Court of Appeal. ‘Martin’ also lost his claim before the Divisional Court in August 2012, and now appeals against that ruling. His disabilities are such that he is unable to end his life without the assistance of others, by helping him to arrange to make use of or travel to Dignitas in Switzerland. Such assistance may fall within the definition of the criminal offence of assisting a suicide. He seeks clarity from the Director of Public Prosecutions concerning how he will exercise his discretion in relation to assistance from professionals and non-family members.

For further comment or information contact Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs at or on 0773 843 5059.

BHA witness statements from:
Simon Blackburn is emeritus professor of philosophy at the University of Cambridge.
A C Grayling is Master of the New College of the Humanities.
John Harris is professor of Bioethics at the University of Machester.
Richard Norman is emeritus professor of moral philosophy at the University of Kent.

Additional Background Information:
Polling showing 81% of public support assisted dying:
Previous BHA news article – ‘L’ waives right to anonymity in assisted dying court case:
Previous BHA news article – Court of Appeal allows ‘L’ to join Tony Nicklinson Claim:
Previous BHA news article – New case to test rules on assisted dying in UK:
The BHA’s campaign on Assisted Dying:

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.