Euthanasia case to proceed
The High Court has ruled that a paralysed man can proceed with his legal action to secure the right of doctors to end his life lawfully.
Tony Nicklinson has “locked-in-syndrome” following a stroke in 2005, and wishes to end his life. He has a paralysed body but a fully-functioning mind.
Because Mr Nicklinson is unable to kill himself, even with assistance, he has asked the High Court to allow doctors to end his life through the administration of a legal injection, without them facing murder charges.
Under current legislation, any doctor who assists in the death of Mr Nicklinson could be prosecuted for murder.
If he is successful in his attempt to change the law then it will effectively legalise euthanasia in the UK and would remove legal protections from large numbers of sick and disabled people.
The Judge's ruling this week means that Mr Nicklinson's case will now go to a full hearing where medical evidence can be heard.
Baroness Finlay, a professor of palliative medicine and former president of the Royal Society of Medicine, responded and said that current legislation is "proportionate and clear".
She warned that many patients could be left vulnerable if doctors are granted the right to kill those in their care, and that it would be difficult in some cases to find out whether the patient wanted to die, or was put under pressure to do so by those with vested interests.
"The difficulty is you set a precedent. If you change the law because one person wants something, who do you remove that protection from and put at risk? We have laws to protect the whole of the population”, she said.
"There are things that somebody might like to do, for example, for safety to carry a knife. But we say you are not allowed to because overall there is risk to the public.
"I would dispute that the only way to relieve someone's suffering is to kill them."
Andrea Minichiello Williams, CEO of Christian Concern, said:
“Should Mr Nicklinson be successful in his case then it would open the door to euthanasia in the UK. The law must remain as it is in order to protect vulnerable people and deter those who may want to exploit or abuse them.
“Disabled groups are overwhelmingly in favour of keeping the current protections in place because they understand the consequences of removing them.”