Nearly seven years ago, the High Court in England ruled against a man named Tony Nicklinson in a right-to-die case. Nicklinson had been paralyzed from the neck down for many years after a stroke and asked the court to give doctors permission to end his life on his own terms. Instead of showing compassion, the High Court said doctors who helped patients end their lives would be prosecuted, much like a murder case.
He died six days later. His family said he refused to eat and contracted pneumonia after the Court’s decision. He suffered until the end.
Now another man, Paul Lamb, is attempting to change the law to legalize assisted dying. Lamb was injured in a car accident in 1990 and has virtually no functioning below his neck. He says he lives in constant pain. He also says he loves life and has no intention to end it just yet. But the 63-year-old says he knows the day will come when he’ll be in a situation similar to Nicklinson’s, and he doesn’t want to die in agony when an alternative route is readily available.
He made this really touching video for Humanists UK:
Paul knows, as he gets older, he will inevitably want assistance to die. Paul wants to be able to end his life at the time and in the manner of his choosing. He argues that the current law — which prohibits any assistance under threat of up to fourteen years’ imprisonment — breaches his human right to a private life.
This isn’t just rhetoric for Lamb. He wrote a letter last week to the Justice Secretary arguing that current law prohibiting assisted suicide is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, and the UK Parliament must fix that. If they don’t, Lamb plans to file a lawsuit and take this issue back to the courts.
It’s worth noting that five nations now permit assisted death, as do eight U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson said:
‘It is a national disgrace that too many politicians have allowed themselves to turn a blind eye to the suffering of those like Paul for so long and instead rely upon our courts.
‘The right to die in a manner and timing of your own choice is a fundamental human right, which the UK has neglected for too long. It should not depend upon your ability to afford travel to Switzerland, nor force families into a heart-wrenching dilemma between letting their loved ones suffer, or supporting them and risking criminal investigation.
‘We are delighted by the news that Paul intends to bring this landmark case and challenge such a heartless law. Paul’s case seeks a more compassionate law, as it will give those who are terminally ill or incurably suffering the dignity they deserve. We will back him at every stage.’
Humanists UK says that, currently, “one British person a week now travels to Switzerland to end their life.”
Lamb is hoping he doesn’t eventually have to be one of them.