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Assisted dying request fails in High Court
Date of article: 17-Aug-12
Article By: Richard Howard, News Editor
Chief executive of the Dignity in Dying campaign, Sarah Wootton, believes that focus should be on Parliament to provide the UK with appropriate laws on assisted dying, after yesterday saw two high-profile legal challenges to secure immunity from prosecution fail.
Tony Nicklinson, 58, from Wiltshire, and a second man known only as Martin, both have locked-in syndrome as a result of stroke and are completely physically dependent. Unable to take action to end their own lives, both individuals were seeking immunity for any professional who helped them to die, but the High Court ruled this cannot be allowed to happen under the current legal structure.
Sarah Wootton, comments: “These cases raise difficult legal and ethical issues which divide society more evenly than whether we should allow assisted dying for terminally ill people. A clearer understanding of what health professionals can do when their patients ask for help to die is essential for the comfort and security of both patients and doctors, so it is important that the legal arguments are heard.
“AM's lawyers asked the High Court for more clarity on what medical professionals can do to support their patients in making difficult end of life decisions. At present there is a real lack of clarity in this area, which causes genuine problems for patients and their doctors. People are taking control at the end of their lives, often in desperate and dangerous ways because they cannot talk openly to professionals about their desire for assistance to end their lives. We believe that the courts have missed an opportunity to make things better for healthcare professionals and their patients.
“While Mr Nicklinson has not been successful at this stage I have no doubt that he will continue to fight for assistance to die. Dignity in Dying campaigns for dying people to die well, not for the right to die for all, and this does not include the change in the law that Tony Nicklinson would need to be helped to die.
“While it's important these cases are in court, it’s equally important that Parliamentarians don't leave this to the courts. Ultimately, Parliament will have to decide how our laws change to give us a legal framework that is more appropriate to the 21st century.”
An appeal is expected from the legal team of both individuals, with the likelihood of being decided in the Supreme Court.