The 1961 Suicide Act makes it an offence to encourage or assist a suicide or a suicide attempt in England and Wales. Anyone doing so could face up to 14 years in prison.
In March 2012, Tony Nicklinson successfully obtained judgment from the High Court that he had an arguable case for declarations that it would not be unlawful, on the grounds of necessity, for a doctor to terminate or assist in the termination of his life, or alternatively that the present law of murder and/or of assisted suicide was incompatible with his right to respect for private family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights 1950 (ECHR).
On Tuesday 19 June 2012 Mr Nicklinson began his hearing in the High Court, which is to decide whether it would be lawful for a doctor to actively end his life. In August 2012 the High Court dismissed Tony Nicklinson’s action. The High Court dismissed the case stating that “It is not for the court to decide whether the law about assisted dying should be changed…..under our system of government these are matters for Parliament to decide.”
Unfortunately, Mr Nicklinson died later that month.
In April 2013 Mr Lamb joined forces with the Nicklinson family to fight the case and appeal to the Court of Appeal. Mr Lamb was severely injured in a car accident in 1990 and now requires 24 hour care.
The Court of Appeal yesterday upheld the ruling of the High Court stating that Mr Nicklinson had not had the right to ask a doctor to end his life. The Court of Appeal reiterated the comments of the High Court, emphasising that any change in the law in respect of the right to die, would have to come about through Parliament. Tony Nicklinson’s widow, Jane Nicklinson, is now planning a further appeal.
A third man, known as “Martin” requested that the Court make a change to the law to make it lawful for a doctor or nurse to assist patients in travelling abroad to die. This claim was upheld by the Court of Appeal. However, the Director of Public Prosecutions is seeking to appeal to the Supreme Court against the decision.
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