Right to Die: Those too incapacitated to end their own lives must have the legal right to solicit help

The recourse open to those intent on suicide is not open to them, because they lack the physical capacity. Yet any doctor who agreed to assist them could be culpable

Share

Yesterday’s Appeal Court decision in the latest “right to die” case simply confirms the status quo.

Under the law as it stands, an individual – however debilitated and determined – may not solicit help to end his life. Paul Lamb, who was paralysed in a road accident, and the family of the late Tony Nicklinson, who suffered from locked-in syndrome until his death last year, vowed to press on to the Supreme Court.

There are two aspects here – the human and the judicial – and in this case they appear sharply at odds. From the human perspective, it appears almost as barbaric to force someone to live on against their will, if they have no hope of getting better and their suffering cannot be relieved, as it would be to impose euthanasia in such circumstances. If the individuals are of sound mind – and with Mr Lamb, as with Tony Nicklinson, there can be no doubt on this score – there should be no obstacle to their making the decision to end their lives or, crucially, being granted the means to do so.

For the difficulty in both these cases is that the recourse open to others who are intent on committing suicide – travel to the Dignitas clinic in Zurich, or perhaps a method sought out on the internet – is not open to them, because they lack the requisite physical capacity. Yet any doctor who agreed to assist them could be culpable. This is the conundrum. If you need help to die – and many of those who seek this way out will, by virtue of their conditions, need help – their right to choose is curtailed. They find themselves discriminated against one last time.

This is why, as a newspaper, we expressed such strong support for Tony Nicklinson in his ultimately vain quest. Of course, if the courts eventually recognise a legal right to die, there must be stringent safeguards. No one should feel pressure to end their life because they feel they are a burden to their family. And judges – for any authority would probably need to come from a judge – would have to satisfy themselves that the impetus had not come from avaricious relatives.

The question remains, though, whether the courts are the right place to further this cause. Both the lower court and now the Appeal Court have ruled that they had to uphold the law as it stands. For Mr Lamb, the Nicklinson family and others like them to get their way, there has to be a change in the law and this, as both courts stressed, is for Parliament to decide.

Fiercely debated though such a reform would be, we believe that the time has come for MPs to recognise a legal right to die, modelled, perhaps, on the law in the Netherlands. At present, the law is ambivalent, but those physically able to end their lives can do so without committing a crime. It is the most disabled who have no choice but to implicate others. They should be granted the same legal entitlement to bring their torment to an end.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

ICT Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a qualified ...

DT Design and Technology Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We are urgently for ...

Maths Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an experienc...

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

Day In a Page

 

Naturism criminalised: Why not being able to bare all is a bummer

Simon Usborne
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on