Barbaric and inhumane: Paralysed man Paul Lamb hits back after judges dismiss his right-to-die appeal

Former builder has spent the past 23 years receiving round-the-clock care with only a tiny degree of movement in his right arm

Britain's right-to die laws are "barbaric and inhumane" a paralysed man said after three of the country's most senior judges today rejected his appeal to be allowed assistance to help him end his own life.

Paul Lamb, 57, has spent the past 23 years receiving round-the-clock care following a car crash which left him with only a tiny degree of movement in his right arm. He said politicians were "scared to death" to bring the UK in line with other countries where assisted suicide was legal.

The former builder and the family of locked-in syndrome sufferer Tony Nicklinson, who died last year, said they will now take their campaign to the Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.

The Lord Chief Justice, sitting with Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson and Lord Justice Elias, concluded that the laws relating to relating to assisted suicide could only be changed by Parliament.

Their decision followed the latest bid by disability campaigners to give those with catastrophic physical injuries or the terminally ill greater control over their deaths.

However, the judges accepted that another man suffering from locked-in syndrome, who can only be identified by the name Martin, should be allowed to take his case to the Supreme Court.

Martin is seeking to clarify whether medical staff would be exempt from prosecution if they helped him commit suicide. Mr Lamb and Mr Nicklinson's widow Jane were also granted leave to appeal the decision.

Mr Lamb told The Independent: "Politicians are scared to death. It is a case of `Oh no, we can't do that - it's too risky'. If there was a politician with the guts to take it on it would be alright but I don't think they have got it in them."

The father-of-two spends many days being dosed with powerful drugs including morphine to combat the root pain he suffers as a result of his spinal injuries.

He joined the right-to-die battle following the death in 2012 of stroke-victim Mr Nicklinson, 58, who contracted pneumonia after refusing food following an earlier decision by the High Court rejecting his voluntary euthanasia claim.

The court heard that the two men were condemned to "suffer in silence" because they were physically unable to end lives which had become "unbearable".

Mr Lamb said he had no plans to take his life at present. But he said: "I am doing this for myself as and when I need it. I'm doing it for thousands of other people living what can only be described as a hell. Many of them have been in touch with me begging me to continue this fight. The more it goes on the stronger I am getting," he said.

Lawyers for Martin said his wife was unwilling to help him take his own life and he would rely on the assistance of a medical professional or carer to help him do so. Under guidance laid down by the Director of Public Prosecution following another case brought by campaigner Debbie Purdy, it is unclear whether they might face trial if they helped him travel abroad to Swiss suicide clinic.

Speaking through a computer Martin said: "Almost every aspect of my daily life is outside of my control. I want, at least, to be able to control my death and this judgment goes some way to allow me to do this."

Andrew Copson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association which helped bring the cases, said 80 per cent of the British public backed reform.

"This is the biggest bio-ethical issue of our time. It already affects so many people but in the coming years it is going to touch the lives of an ever increasing number, as improvements in medical science allow us to keep people alive way beyond the point at which they might wish to live. It is unrealistic to think we can ignore it," Mr Copson said.

The Lord Chief Justice argued that it was not up to judges to change the law on matters of life and death such as hanging and abortion arguing that Parliament represented "the conscience of the nation".

Dr Andrew Fergusson of the anti-euthanasia campaign group Care Not Killing welcomed the ruling in the case of Nicklinson and Lamb. "The judges acknowledged these are three tragic cases but agreed with our view that it is not acceptable to expect the state to sanction and condone murder," he said.

Q&A by Jonathan Brown

What happened today?

Judges rejected a claim that doctors should be able to plead a new defence of necessity to stop intolerable suffering in the case of severely disabled or dying people who want to end their lives but are unable to do so. They also rejected the argument that murder laws were incompatible with the Human Rights Act although they agreed that the law should be clarified by the Supreme Court.

What is the current law?

A doctor who administered a lethal injection would be charged with murder. The Suicide Act (1961) in England or Wales (but not Scotland) also makes it illegal to assist someone take their life. But those who help loved ones travel overseas to commit suicide do not face prosecution. Medics are allowed to withdraw treatment and fluids from patients at the very end of their lives.

What is the argument against?

Religious groups, disability campaigners and health professionals change would reinforce negative attitudes to the most vulnerable and undermine the respect for life.

What happens next?

Campaigners want Parliament to changes the law but the Government has no plans to do so.

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