In the very first few days after I received my diagnosis, knowing that the illness was terminal, I told my husband that I wanted to have a dignified death when I could no longer bear things. I know that the disease is incurable and during its evolution it brings unbearable suffering and physical degradation which is not something that I wish to live through.
I believe very strongly that no family should be faced with the situation that we had to face of arranging to have a death in a foreign country.
Tony Nicklinson was a civil engineer and rugby player until he became paralysed from the neck down following a stroke in 2005. He suffered from locked-in syndrome, and described his life as a ‘living nightmare’. He consistently expressed a desire to seek an assisted death, so that he could die with dignity on his own terms. However, because he would need a doctor to administer a lethal injection, the procedure would have been unlawful in the UK. As a result of his severe disabilities, he was unable to even travel to Switzerland – where physician assisted suicide is lawful. After his death in 2012, Tony’s wife, Jane, and his legal representatives, Saimo Chahal QC (hon) and Paul Bowen QC, fought the case up to the Supreme Court and later European Court of Human Rights. The Supreme Court by a majority stated that Art was engaged but that Parliament should have an opportunity to look at the issues in the first instance- particularly in relation to people with incurable diseases who had a long time to live and that if Parliament did not then then may well have to consider the issues afresh.
You can read Ms Chahal’s comments on the decision of the European Court of Human Rights here.
Paul Lamb was left paralysed after a road accident more than 20 years ago. He stepped into Tony’s shoes and took over a part of the case when Tony died. Paul’s case was considered by the Supreme Court and European Court of Human Rights sitting in Strasbourg along with Jane Nicklison’s case as the Administrator of Tony’s will.
Debbie Purdy was a 51-year-old right to die campaigner who lived with primary progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) for almost 20 years, until she passed away in 2014. Debbie wanted an assisted death with the help of her husband, Omar Puente, but feared that he would be prosecuted under the Suicide Act 1961 as a result. She brought a judicial review claim against the Director of Public Prosecutions arguing a breach of Art 8 due to his failure to clarify the circumstances he would weigh in the balance in deciding whether to prosecute or not. Debbie was represented by Saimo Chahal QC (Hon), David Pannick QC and Paul Bowen QC and her case resulted in a landmark victory. The DPP was obliged to provide Guidance on the factors to be taken into account when prosecuting cases of assisted suicide. The Guidance is found here. The former Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, has said that Debbie’s role as a campaigner against the law on assisted suicide was ‘absolutely key’ and that she had transformed the debate.
Professor Savulescu is based at the University of Oxford and is the Director for the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics and the Oxford Centre for Neuroethics. In this article, Professor Savulescu says, “I think it’s only a matter of time before people have control over the time and manner in which they die.”
Read the full story here: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/feb/03/matter-of-time-people-control-time-manner-death
Ms Chahal is our solicitor. She is a leading expert in human rights law. In this article, she offers her comments on the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Carter v Attorney General of Canada. Ms Chahal compares the approach taken by the Canadian SC with the decision of the UK Supreme Court in Tony Nicklinson’s case.
Read the full article here: http://bindmans.com/news-and-events/our-opinion/to-die-or-not-to-die.-who-decides