A severely paralysed man has won the right to challenge the law against euthanasia in England and Wales.
Tony Nicklinson wants doctors to be allowed to kill him, and yesterday the High Court gave permission for his legal case to be heard.
But critics say it may put other vulnerable people at risk, and the Government has previously said there are “compelling reasons” for the courts not to get involved.
Mr Nicklinson has locked-in syndrome, which means his mind is active but he cannot move his body.
Reacting to the judge’s decision, Baroness Finlay, a professor of palliative medicine at Cardiff University School of Medicine said: “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.”
Dr Peter Saunders, from the Care Not Killing Alliance, cautioned that “hard cases make bad law”.
Dr Saunders added that cases such as Mr Nicklinson’s are “extremely rare”, and that: “The overwhelming majority of people with severe disability, even with locked-in syndrome, do not wish to die but rather want support to live.”
Mr Nicklinson communicates through looking, blinking and nodding, and is so paralysed that he would not be able to commit suicide himself.
In an editorial, The Daily Mail expressed concern about the court’s decision and warned of the danger of “striding into the moral morass of euthanasia, in which some lives are judged less valuable than others”.
And in its leader article The Daily Telegraph noted: “This is not a ‘right-to-die’ case but one involving the ‘right to be killed’. Changing the law relating to murder without the authority of Parliament is inconceivable”.
Last year a study which looked at people who have locked-in syndrome found the majority said they were happy.