12:33, December 19 259 0 theguardian.com

2019-12-19 12:33:03
Right-to-die campaigner fails to overturn ban in court

Paul Lamb has failed to overturn the ban on assisted dying after arguing it was discriminatory against people with disabilities.

Lamb did not manage to persuade two judges in the high court on Thursday that the bar on assisted dying discriminates against those who are physically unable to take their own lives.

Lord Justice Dingemans and Mrs Justice Laing ruled that Lamb’s case was “unarguable” and should not be allowed to proceed to a full hearing to challenge the law.

Lamb, 63, from Leeds, was severely injured in a car accident in 1990 and has no function below his neck, apart from limited movement in his right arm. He requires 24-hour care and said, given his condition, he would inevitably need assistance to die. At present, anyone who assisted him to end his life would be at risk of 14 years’ imprisonment, he said.

Lamb’s legal team had claimed that the current law breaches his human rights, including article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects against discrimination, as well as article 8 that protects the right to privacy and family life.

However, Laing said allowing exemptions to the law on assisted dying in Lamb’s case would remove protection of very vulnerable people, some of whom would not wish to take their own lives but may be subjected to pressure to do so.

Lamb’s lawyers argued that granting him the right to an assisted suicide would not “undermine the doctor-patient relationship”.

They said: “That does not apply to Mr Lamb’s scheme as it is not necessarily concerned with physician-assisted suicide. It may simply involve a judge permitting a family member to accompany the individual to Dignitas. That plainly would not undermine the doctor-patient relationship.”

Writing in the Guardian this summer, Lamb said: “I’m afraid of having no choice other than starving myself to death.”

Addressing the opponents of assisted dying who argue it devalues the lives of disabled people, Lamb said: “As a disabled person, I find this offensive. Every person’s disability is different – and some might not be able to live with pain. Giving me this right won’t take away others’ rights.”

Lamb was unable to attend the hearing as he was receiving treatment in hospital. His case has been supported by Humanists UK who claim that more than 90% of British people support a change in the law to allow for assisted dying.

Its chief executive, Andrew Copson, said: “Paul lives in constant pain and is fighting for the right to be able to choose a compassionate ending if his health worsened and his suffering became too unbearable.

“We must support people’s autonomy and their right to control what happens to their own bodies – this is the essence of what it means to protect human dignity and prevent suffering.”

After the judgment, Robert Ince, a spokesman for the campaign group My Death, My Decision, said: “We are extremely disappointed that the courts have once again failed to support the human rights of Paul and give hope to many like him who suffer intolerably.”