Monday, 25 June 2012

BHA: The Right To Die

This week the case of Tony Nicklinson, a paralysed man campaigning for a doctor to be allowed to lawfully end his life, is being heard in the High Court.

Mr Nicklinson suffers from ‘locked-in syndrome’, which means that whilst he is of sound mind, he is paralysed from the neck down and unable to speak. We support his wish for the ruling that if he makes the informed decision to end his life, a doctor will be immune from prosecution if they help him do so. In addition to this we would also like to see legislation to legalise assisted dying.

As the law stands at the moment, helping someone to end their life constitutes murder, which carries a sentence of life imprisonment. In his legal case, Mr Nicklinson is seeking several changes which would sit alongside the existing laws. Firstly, he is asking that the common law defence of necessity should be granted to doctors who help people to end their lives; secondly, Mr Nicklinson is seeking a declaration that the current law regarding murder and assisted suicide is incompatible with the right to respect for private life, which is guaranteed under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998. Mr Nicklinson accepts that some of the changes he is seeking can only be introduced by Parliament, but in the continued absence of legislation on the issue, he argues that he is entitled to ‘remedy’ from the court. The judges are expected to reach a decision in July and we will continue our work campaigning to see a change in the law.