Paralysed Leeds man Paul Lamb 'devastated' after losing 'right to die' court appeal

A former  builder from Leeds who was paralysed in a car crash 30 years ago said he is "devastated" after the Court of Appeal refused permission for him to judicially review the UK law on assisted dying.
Paul LambPaul Lamb
Paul Lamb

Paul Lamb, 65, says the current law banning assisted suicide under threat of up to 14 years' imprisonment breaches his human rights.

Mr Lamb, who was severely injured in a car accident in 1990, has no function below his neck apart from limited movement in his right arm.

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He is campaigning to change the law on assisted dying for those who are either incurably suffering or terminally ill, and wants the right-to-die when his pain ever becomes too much to bear.

Lawyers acting for him had appealed against a decision from the High Court in December 2019, when his case was denied permission to proceed, but they have been unsuccessful.

They had argued that the current law violates Mr Lamb's human rights by discriminating against him, and was therefore incompatible with the Human Rights Act 1998.

But the Court of Appeal refused to allow Mr Lamb permission to bring his full case and instead ruled that assisted dying should be resolved by Parliament and not the courts.

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Mr Lamb's case is being supported by Humanists UK, who say the Court of Appeal's decision is expected to end the prospect of further cases for the foreseeable future.

Mr Lamb has written to the Secretary of State for Justice, urging him to take notice of the court’s decision and has called for an inquiry into assisted dying, which could pave the way for future legislation.

Mr Lamb, who lives in constant pain and has around the clock care, said: "I am devastated by this decision, and the powerless position it has left me in.

"Without the option of a dignified death, I now have no choice if my pain ever becomes unbearable, other than the horrifying prospect I was most afraid of from the start – slowly starving myself to death.

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"I cannot understand, in a civilised society like ours, why I should be forced to suffer when millions of people around the world already have the choice I asked for.

"Throughout my case, all I have been told is how sympathetic others are to my situation.

"But I have never wanted anyone to pity me. All I have ever wanted is for my choice to be respected and given equal validity under the law, like everyone else’s.

"Instead this decision, if it is the final word on the matter, condemns me to a life of constant pain, and removes the small part of my life that I could still have some say over – how I want to die.

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"I may have lost this case, but I’m going to continue fighting to change this law."

Humanists UK’s chief executive Andrew Copson said: "It’s now been half a decade since our highest judges asked Parliament to reconsider the law on assisted dying.

"Since then, the number of Britons travelling to Switzerland has doubled, half of doctors have come to personally support a change in the law with only a minority opposed, and progressive countries have demonstrated that choice and control can be balanced alongside robust safeguards.

"We are disappointed that the courts have yet again failed to challenge one of the most unethical laws in our country.

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"However, once again the message of this judgment is clear: Parliament cannot ignore its responsibility to examine this law any longer. It is time for MPs to confront the compelling evidence favouring assisted dying, and for the Government to help by issuing a long overdue inquiry."