ADF International


UK’s Supreme Court Makes Unprecedented Advances to Legalize Assisted Suicide

The United Kingdom’s Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision at the end of June concerning assisted suicide. In R (Nicklinson & Anor) v. Ministry of Justice; R (AM) v. DPP, the court ruled that Britain’s law, which criminalizes assisted suicide, should not be declared incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. This joint case related to three severely disabled men who want or wanted to commit suicide.

In R (Nicklinson & Anor) v. Ministry of Justice, Tony Nicklinson (who died during the proceedings and whose case was continued by his widow) and Paul Lamb argued that the law should permit them to have help ending their lives. Although committing suicide is not a crime in the United Kingdom, assisting with the suicide of another person is under Section 2 of the Suicide Act 1961. This case was heard alongside another case involving a disabled man known as “Martin,” who wanted clarification from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) on whether health professionals such as a nurse, doctor or caregiver, would be prosecuted if they assisted with his suicide. Up until this point, the DPP’s policy only pertained to family members who helped a loved one die.

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