Battle for right to die to be enshrined in law is ‘doomed to fail’, claims Manchester university ethics expert

By Neil Robertson

A paralysed man’s battle to get the right to die enshrined in law is ‘doomed to fail’, claims an ethics expert at the University of Manchester.

Dr Iain Brassington, a Bioethics lecturer, claims that Paul Lamb’s request to kill himself will not be permitted by law.

Mr Lamb, 58, from Leeds, has been paralysed for 23 years and wants a doctor to end his life, as he is physically unable to kill himself. 

However, Mr Lamb’s doctor faces a murder charge if he kills him, despite Mr Lamb’s fight for a ‘necessity’ defence against this potential charge. 

This, Dr Brassington says, will be the stumbling block in Mr Lamb’s attempts to end his lengthy period of suffering.

“It is, on the face of it, highly morally compelling.  However, it seems certain that the attempt is legally doomed to fail,” he said.

“The necessity defence would fail because it is not necessary to kill Lamb to end his suffering: a permanent induced coma could do that without ending his life. 

“We might quibble that that would amount to being dead from his point of view: but that point itself is enough to show that one does not have to kill Lamb in order to achieve whatever good (or harm mitigation) would be realised by his death.”

Dr Brassington likened Mr Lamb’s case to those of Diane Pretty and Tony Nicklinson, both of whom failed in their efforts to end their lives.

And he does not predict the outcome of Mr Lamb’s trial being any different.

“Even if the laws on assisted dying were more permissive than they are, Lamb’s request that a life-ending drug be put in his mouth would be different in law from merely providing someone with a drug that they could administer themselves,” he said.

“And there is, of course, no appetite in Parliament to make the laws more permissive anyway.

“Lamb’s situation is tragic in the fullest sense. The judges will doubtless express sympathy, and do so sincerely. But they will not allow his request.”

Picture courtesy of _Ricky, with thanks.

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