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

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Science versus religion in the three-parent baby debate

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Kylie has helped to boost viewing figures for the talent show  

When an Aussie calls you a ‘bastard’, you know you’ve arrived

Howard Jacobson
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee