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Nicklinson and Lamb ruling welcomed, but with caution
The Court of Appeal has upheld the High Court’s decision in the joint case brought by Paul Lamb and the family of Tony Nickinson, who died of natural causes in August 2012. Both men had sought court orders permitting doctors to end their lives without facing murder charges. Their challenge was unanimously dismissed by three Court of Appeal judges, on the basis that it was up to Parliament to decide, as it represents “the conscience of the nation.” A third man, known only as ‘Martin’, has, however, won his case which was to seek clearer prosecution guidelines for health professionals who help others die, as his wife and family do not want to help him to end his life.
Whilst it was unlikely that these challenges would have been revoked by the Court of Appeal, there is still the danger that the intense media attention will lead to greater pressure on MPs to change the law of assisted suicide. As noted by Andrea Williams, CEO of Christian Legal Centre, “We’ve already seen how the legal landscape has changed in the aftermath of the Purdy case. There have been no prosecutions since the DPP issued guidelines on assisted dying. This becomes a stepping stone for lobbyists to pressure parliament into changing the law on suicide. Law makers need to be aware of this strategy and consider the principles carefully rather than be swayed by clever PR based on hard cases. In the current economic climate of rising costs, unemployment and benefit cuts, budgets are squeezed. We must remember the most vulnerable in our midst such as the elderly and disabled.”