Humanists make intervention in 'right to die' case

By staff writers
March 20, 2013

The court of appeal will decide today at 2pm whether a man called 'L' can take over the late Tony Nicklinson's claim to establish a 'right to die'.

'L', who is immobile after an accident in 1990 feels that he is trapped in his body, cannot enjoy or endure a life that is so monotonous and painful and lacking in autonomy. 'L' wishes a doctor to end his life and seeks the same declaration originally sought by Tony Nicklinson in the legal proceedings.

The British Humanist Association (BHA) have intervened in the case and are supporting both claims.

The Court may order that a ‘L’ may be added as a new party to proceedings under Civil Procedure Rules where it is desirable to add the new party so that the court can resolve all the matters in dispute in the proceedings.

The Divisional Court was fully seized of the necessity argument and gave judgment on it. It was only because of Tony Nicklinson’s death that the argument was not pursued on appeal.

Andrew Copson, chief executive of the BHA, commented: "We hope today that the court will recognise the importance of allowing 'L' to be joined to the case so that the necessity argument can be heard on appeal.

"Mentally competent adults should be able to make decisions about their lives, as long as they do not result in harm to others. In cases where a patient 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, the law should allow a doctor to intervene. We are intervening in these cases in the hope to establish this through the court," said Mr Copson.

'Right to die' claims remain hugely controversial. Supporters of change say that it is cruel and unfair to deny people a dignified death in extreme circumstances.

Opponents say that agreeing to such a principal and allowing assisted deaths will open a door on widespread abuse and coercion.

Others say that a distinction can and should be made between assistance in a case where someone is already dying, and assistance to suicide for someone who has an incapacitating but not terminal condition.


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