Supreme court judges have dismissed a bid to effectively make euthanasia legal in the UK, after months of deliberating behind the scenes.
A majority of the panel of nine judges upheld the decision of the high court that existing laws preventing doctors from assisting with suicides do not infringe the rights to privacy or a family life under the European Convention of Human Rights.
The decision will be a hammer-blow for Paul Lamb, who was near-paralysed in a traffic accident 20 years ago and wants to end his life legally.
It follows the death of Tony Nicklinson, who suffered from 'locked-in syndrome', after losing his high court bid last year. His widow Jane had pursued the appeal alongside Lamb.
The British Humanist Association (BHA), which supported the pair in their legal struggle, pointed to a number of positives to come out of the case, however.
Two judges voiced support for the arguments being made. The lead judge, Lord Neuberger, called on parliament to reconsider the issue – and made clear that legalising assisted dying would not result in a standoff with the European courts.
"So long as there are strict safeguards, it is our moral duty as a society to give assistance to mentally competent adults who are suffering incurably, permanently incapacitated, and have made a clear and informed decision to end their life but are unable to do so independently," BHA chief executive Andrew Copson said.
"We will continue our work to see this happen at last, and are proud to support the brave individuals who continue to bring these cases, overcoming great personal tragedies in order to advance justice and bring about a more humane society."
Parliament is unlikely to support a change on the issue because of MPs' concerns about the dangers of coercion, however.