Opinion Former Article

BHA: Nicklinson, Lamb and ‘Martin’ assisted dying hearings at Court of Appeal begin

Hearings begin at the Court of Appeal today of the cases of: Paul Lamb, immobilised after a road accident and seeking the right to an assisted death; Jane Nicklinson, the widow of Tony Nicklinson, who also sought an assisted death; and a claimant known as ‘Martin’ in the same position. The British Humanist Association (BHA) is also a party to the case, as an intervener on the side of assisted dying.

In its evidence the BHA has submitted that, ‘Being able to die, with dignity, in a manner of our choosing must be understood to be a fundamental human right. Our position is that the right to choose when to die is inextricably linked to the right to life.

Prominent moral philosophers including Simon Blackburn, A C Grayling, John Harris, and Richard Norman have prepared the BHA’s evidence, which centres on the obligation we have to alleviate suffering, the principle of personal autonomy, and the right of mentally competent adults to make decisions about their lives, as long as they do not result in harm to others.

Andrew Copson, BHA Chief Executive, commented: 

The brave individuals bringing these cases are overcoming great personal tragedies in order to advance justice and bring about a more humane society and we are proud to be parties to their cases in support of them. When a mentally competent adult is suffering incurably, is permanently incapacitated, and has made a clear and informed decision to end their life but is unable to do so independently, simple compassion calls out to us to give assistance – it’s the right thing to do. That’s what the overwhelming majority of the British public believe, and we think the law should reflect that.’

The cases being heard today, which focus on the right of those incurably suffering but not terminally ill to receive assistance in ending their lives, comes just two days ahead of the introduction in the House of Lords of a Private Member’s Bill to legalise assisted dying in the more limited circumstances of terminal illness.

The public consistently and overwhelmingly supports both sorts of assisted death, with 81% saying last year that mentally competent individuals with incurable or terminal diseases who wish to end their lives should be able to receive medical assistance to do so, without those assisting them facing prosecution.


Notes

For further comment or information contact Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs at pavan@humanism.org.uk or on 0773 843 5059.

Simon Blackburn is emeritus professor of philosophy at the University of Cambridge.
A C Grayling is Master of the New College of the Humanities.
John Harris is professor of Bioethics at the University of Machester.
Richard Norman is emeritus professor of moral philosophy at the University of Kent.

Polling showing 81% of public support assisted dying:
http://humanism.org.uk/2012/09/07/news-1108/

Previous BHA news article – ‘L’ waives right to anonymity in assisted dying court case:
http://humanism.org.uk/2013/04/18/paul-lamb-l-waives-right-to-anonymity-in-assisted-dying-court-case/

Previous BHA news article – Court of Appeal allows ‘L’ to join Tony Nicklinson Claim:
http://humanism.org.uk/2013/03/20/court-of-appeal-allows-l-to-join-tony-nicklinson-claim/

Previous BHA news article – New case to test rules on assisted dying in UK:
http://humanism.org.uk/2011/08/19/news-873/

The BHA’s campaign on Assisted Dying:
http://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/public-ethical-issues/assisted-dying/

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.

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