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Ethics briefings
  1. Sophie Brannan,
  2. Eleanor Chrispin,
  3. Martin Davies,
  4. Veronica English,
  5. Rebecca Mussell,
  6. Julian C Sheather

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Court of appeal ruling on assisted dying

In July 2013, the Court of Appeal ruled on an assisted dying case brought by Paul Lamb, a 58-year-old man who has been quadriplegic and without function in any of his limbs, apart from a little movement in his right hand, since a car accident in 1990.1 Mr Lamb was permitted by the Court to take over the legal case of Tony Nicklinson, who died in August 2012, less than a week after his request for judicial review was rejected by the High Court.2 Like Mr Nicklinson, the severity of Mr Lamb's injuries means that he is unable to take his own life, other than by starvation. He would like his life to be ended, preferably by lethal injection administered at home, and does not want to travel to Switzerland for an assisted suicide.

Mr Lamb's case was heard, along with that of Mr Nicklinson's wife (on the grounds that she suffered pain, distress and injury as a result of having to witness her husband's suffering caused by his inability to end his own life) and that of another man, ‘Martin’, in the Court of Appeal in May.

The Court identified three issues from the parties’ submissions:

  1. The common law should provide a defence to murder where that takes the form of euthanasia in circumstances where another party is giving effect to the settled wish of a competent person (this was raised by Mr Lamb).

  2. The legal prohibitions on those providing assistance constitute a disproportionate interference with Article 8 rights to a private and family life (this was raised by both Martin and Mr Lamb).

  3. The Director of Public Prosecution's (DPP) policy statement on factors which he will take into account when considering whether or not to exercise his discretion in favour of prosecuting does not satisfy the …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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