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Lord Chief Justice won't allow personal sympathy to sway decision on assisted suicide.

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Lord Chief Justice won't allow personal sympathy to sway decision on assisted suicide.

Post  Panda on Mon 13 May - 17:28

Lord Chief Justice won't allow 'personal sympathy' to sway decision on
assisted suicide

Britain's most senior judged has insisted that he will not allow “personal
sympathy” for people with severe disabilities or even public opinion to sway him
as he considers a landmark legal challenge to the ban on assisted suicide.

Mr Lamb said having freedom to
end his life at a time of his choosing could help him live longer Photo: Christopher Pledger for the

By John Bingham, Social Affairs

3:18PM BST 13 May 2013

The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, said he and his fellow judges were
“acutely aware of the desperate situation” faced by people such as Tony
Nicklinson, the “locked-in” syndrome sufferer who starved himself to death last
year after losing a right-to-die case.

But he said “only basic principles of law” could decide whether or not there
could ever be any relaxation of the ban on assisted suicide.

He also challenged lawyers brandishing opinion poll findings pointing to
strong public support for a change in the law, questioning how it was relevant,
adding: “The public may change its mind next week.”

He said the case could not be decided “on the basis of opinion polls”.

Lord Judge was speaking as he, joined by the Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson
and Lord Justice Elias, began to hear submissions as part of a wide ranging
Court of Appeal challenge to the UK’s laws on euthanasia.

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The case first brought by Mr Nicklinson has been taken over jointly by his
widow, Jane, and Paul Lamb, a severely disabled former lorry driver, who were
both in court.

They want the judges to allow doctors or others who help someone wanting to
die to be able use the old common law defence of “necessity” – usually applied
in cases of self defence – to fight subsequent charges of murder.

They also argue that for some people suffering chronic pain but unable to end
their lives without help, the ban violates their basic human rights, denying
them “autonomy” and “dignity”.

The case is being heard alongside a separate challenge by another “locked-in”
sufferer named only as Martin”.

His lawyers are urging the court to widen the recent guidelines from the
Director Public Prosecutions which enable close family members who help someone
travel abroad to take their lives to include strangers motivated by compassion.

During his opening submission Paul Bowen QQ, for Mrs Nicklinson and Mr Lamb,
said that the DPP’s recent guidelines had effectively “decriminalised” assisted

He argued that up to 3,000 people a year may already be dying as a result of
covert euthanasia under the guise of pain relief.

And he dismissed arguments that a relaxation of the law would open the
floodgates to euthanasia, insisting that the Britain had already “crossed the
Rubicon” on the issue of suicide many times in the last 200 years, when the
bodies of people who committed suicide were denied a Christian burial and
interred under the public highway rather than in a grave.

He also challenged the refusal of a lower court to interfere with matters it
thought should be left to Parliament arguing that some cases were “so hotly
disputed that the courts must step in”.

He said that her was not arguing for an “untrammelled right to suicide” but
that there were some people whose pain was so unbearable and who are unable to
end their lives themselves that the ban n assisted suicide but a
“disproportionate burden “ on them – condemning them to “suffer in silence”.

But Lord Judge warned the court that he could not be swayed by personal

“We are acutely aware of the desperate situation on which the applicants find
themselves and we are very sympathetic,” he said.

“But you know, and they surely do, that we can’t decide the case as a matter
of personal sympathy, we have to decide it on the basis of principles of law
after hearing your arguments.”

Mr Lamb, speaking outside court, said having freedom to end his life at a
time of his choosing could, conversely, help him live longer.

“It would be something in the background, some as and when something I can
call upon,” he said.

“Having said that it would probably give me peace of mind enough to prolong
my my life really, because otherwise I am constantly [thinking], if I do want to
end it how on earth can I do it without getting anybody into trouble.

“I want my wishes to be respected, that’s all I want – to be respected.”
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