Paralyzed Man Loses Appeal in Right to Assisted Suicide Case

A paralyzed man suffering from locked in syndrome lost his appeal to legally seek assistance to end his life, a U.K. court ruled today in a right-to-die case.

The court in London ruled against Paul Lamb, who suffers a condition that prevents him from speaking or controlling his muscles, in his bid for a declaration that anyone who assisted him wouldn’t be prosecuted. Another man in the case, identified only as Martin, won an order requiring prosecutors to clarify policies on whether medical professionals would be charged if they escorted him to a suicide clinic in Switzerland.

Terminally and seriously ill patients have turned to U.K. courts in assisted suicide cases for at least a decade, without success. The current law is based on a 1961 act that declared an unambiguous blanket ban on assisted suicide.

“This case has been all about giving people the choice to decide when and how they can end their own life,” said Richard Stein, a lawyer at Leigh Day & Co. who represented Martin. “This is a right all able-bodied people have, but is denied to Martin because of his condition.”

The Crown Protection Service has submitted an application to appeal to the Supreme Court.

“It would be sensible for the CPS, if possible, to have the benefit of the views of the Supreme Court before any amendments are made to the Director of Public Prosecution’s Guidelines in this important and sensitive area,” said Keir Starmer, director of public prosecutions for the CPS.

Tony Nicklinson, who was also part of the appeal in the case, died in August 2012.

The case is Nicklinson v. Ministry of Justice, U.K. Court of Appeal, Case No. C1/2012/2712.

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