Tony Nicklinson and A.M. are claimants in a right to die case in England. Each suffer from the catastrophic disability known as “locked in syndrome.”
The claimants are unable to suicide without help and they brought separate cases to the High Court. The Court ruled today that it would be “wrong of the court” to shift from the position that voluntary euthanasia is murder, regardless of the motive. To do that would “usurp the proper role of parliament” to decide the conditions under which a person may die, or not.
According to the Court, the Department fo Public Prosecution policy on assisted suicide showed that if Nicklinson or A.M. were to be assisted, there was a real risk of prosecution.
In the UK, there is a mandatory life sentence for murder. The Court considered whether this is incompatible with the European Convention of Human Rights in instances of voluntary euthanasia, but the court said that this case was not appropriate for such a consideration.
Justice Toulson characterized the plight of Nicklinson and A.M. as “deeply moving.” He said “[t]heir desire to have control over the ending of their lives demands the most careful and sympathetic consideration, but there are also other important issues to consider.”
Toulson said that to allow their claims would have consequences far beyond their individual cases and would amount to the court making a fundamental change in the law. In the case of A.M., it would not be appropriate for the Court to compell the Department of Public Prosecution to go beyond its role and give permission to someone who wants to die in Switzerland.
“Under our system of government these are matters for parliament to decide, representing society as a whole, after parliamentary scrutiny, and not for the court on the facts of an individual case or cases.”
Counsel for Tony Nicklinson said there are strong grounds for appeal.
The full decision can be read here. nicklinson-judgment-August 16 2012