Direct link Share on

The Divisional Court dismissed challenges to various aspects of the law relating to assisted dying, reiterating that it would be constitutionally improper for changes to the law in this area to be made otherwise than by Parliament.

The claimants suffered from "locked in syndrome". Each wished to die with dignity, but would require the assistance of others to do so. Mr. Nicklinson claimed that the law should be interpreted such that necessity would be a defence to a charge of murder or assisted suicide in case of his voluntary euthanasia or assisted suicide. AM claimed that the DPP, SRA and GMC were under a duty to clarify their policies in relation to prosecutions or disciplinary action in cases of assisted suicide. Each claimant relied on Article 8 ECHR.

The Court held that: (1) necessity was not a defence to a charge of murder, and section 6 of the HRA, read with Article 8 ECHR, did not require the Court to recognise such a defence; (2) necessity was not a defence to a charge of assisted suicide under section 2 of the Suicide Act 1961, which was not incompatible with Article 8 ECHR; and (3) the DPP was under no duty further to clarify his policy on prosecution of assisting suicide, and it followed that AM's claims against the SRA and GMC were to be dismissed.

This important judgment analyses in detail the leading authorities in this area (e.g. Bland, Pretty, Purdy, Haas) and addresses a wide range of evidence, including the report of the Falconer Commission on Assisted Dying. The judgment contains important observations regarding the scope of the Article 8 ECHR "right to die", principles of legal certainty and margin of appreciation under the ECHR, and the constitutional limits of the Court's power to develop the law.

Robert Englehart QC and Andrew Scott represented the GMC.

+44 (0)207 5831770