Monday, 9 December 2013

BHA Intervenes In Supreme Court Assisted Dying Cases


I am writing to you today with the good news that the BHA have again been accepted as interveners on the side of assisted dying in the Paul Lamb, Jane Nicklinson and ‘Martin’ cases which will be before the Supreme Court next month.

You will know that we have supported these cases from the beginning, and have been the only organization to do so. It has been a long journey through the courts, and by no means an easy one. In August, we faced the disappointing news that we had lost in a hearing before the Court of Appeal.

What I can say to you is that these cases are being taken seriously – the time allocation of the cases in the Supreme Court has been increased to four full days spanning 16-19 December, and there will be nine judges sitting. This number of judges hearing a case is very rare and reflects the gravity with which they are viewing this appeal.

Never has our assisted dying campaign been more urgent or had more at stake. As its name implies, the Supreme Court is the UK's highest court, and its decisions are binding for all lower courts and in all future cases. Parliament alone possesses the power to overturn its verdicts. What the Court decides will likely impact upon suffering Britons for years to come – for better or worse.

From the outset we have been clear in our position that 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.

Every step of the way we have challenged the arguments of Care Not Killing, who have always intervened on the opposing side. It has been and continues to be a concerted effort, and in this we depend entirely upon donations from our members and supporters.

We have been fortunate in having an excellent legal team supporting and representing us: four solicitors from Irwin Mitchell and three barristers from Doughty Street Chambers, including an excellent QC. We have also been reliant on the help of the Humanist Philosophers' Group and are very grateful for all the work done by Simon Blackburn, John Harris, Richard Norman and A.C. Grayling in helping with our legal submissions.

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.

I am in the process of preparing our submissions for the Supreme Court but wanted to say thank you for all the support you have given the BHA so far in this area, it has been invaluable. Many of the testimonies sent to me by members were used in our submissions. Going forward we will continue to work on this issue which we believe to be one of the most important bio-ethical issues of our time.

Yours sincerely,

Pavan Dhaliwal
Head of Public Affairs