European court rejects UK assisted suicide bid

An attempt to soften the law on assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia in the UK has failed, after being rejected by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

Jane Nicklinson, the widow of locked-in syndrome sufferer Tony Nicklinson, and Paul Lamb, who was paralysed after a car crash, appealed to the European court to overturn the UK’s laws against the practices.

However, the ECtHR maintained that any change in the law should be decided by the UK Parliament and dismissed their appeal as “inadmissible”.


A written judgment by the ECtHR reads: “In its decision in the case of Nicklinson and Lamb v. the United Kingdom the European Court of Human Rights has unanimously declared the applications inadmissible. The decision is final.”

It continues: “Parliament is best placed to take a decision on the issue in question in light of the sensitive ethical, philosophical and social issues which arise”.

Nicklinson and Lamb argued that people who wanted to kill themselves but were not able to do so should be able to get help to commit suicide without the doctor or nurse involved being criminalised.


Last year, the UK Supreme Court rejected a claim by the duo that a prohibition on assisted suicide is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Supreme Court judges ruled against Nicklinson and Lamb by a 7-2 majority, after a hearing in London.

Tony Nicklinson died in 2012 a few days after he lost a High Court case to allow doctors to assist in his suicide.


The decision was welcomed by Dr Peter Saunders, Chief Executive of the Christian Medical Fellowship.

He told Premier Christian Radio: “We were pleased with the judgment, we think it’s a very wise one.

“The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has actually upheld the decision of all the courts in the UK, starting with the High Court, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, that the Suicide Act, which prevents assisting a suicide, is not incompatible with the right to private and family life.

“And so that is the end of the matter.”


Labour MP Rob Marris is seeking to legalise assisted suicide in England and Wales. His assisted suicide Bill will be debated in the House of Commons on 11 September.

In May, members of the Scottish Parliament voted comprehensively to reject a Bill which would have legalised the practice in Scotland.

And in December last year the Welsh Assembly rejected a motion supporting assisted suicide, with only twelve AMs voting in favour.

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