The law on assisting terminally ill patients to die continues to be challenged, both in the courts and parliament.
The wife of Tony Nicklinson, who suffered along with him as he sought the right to ask medics to help end his life, has now been given leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal.
The High Court decided in August last year that voluntary euthanasia still counts as murder, leaving those involved open to prosecution. They held that there was no breach of human rights and any change in the law was for parliament, not the courts. Mr. Nicklinson’s wife has been granted leave, as the Administrator of his estate, to take forward his case that the current law is incompatible with his human rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Meanwhile a Private Member’s Bill will be tabled this summer in the House of Lords seeking to change the law on assisted dying. The Bill, tabled by Lord Falconer, who chaired the Commission on Assisted Dying, is a fresh attempt to allow friends or family of terminally ill patients with less than a year to live, to assist them in ending their life.
Growing public disquiet over the suffering of dying loved ones has led to repeated recent attempts to change the law, which currently imposes a prison sentence of up to 14 years upon those found guilty of helping someone to die.
But there is a gulf between the perceived position of the terminally ill, and those like Nicklinson who could live a normal life span, but with what they consider an unacceptable quality of life.
Doctors are also anxious that they should be under no obligation actively to take a life if, as with Nicklinson, the patient is physically incapable of bringing about their own demise, even with assistance.