UK & World News
Sufferers Lose Landmark Right-To-Die Battle
Two victims of locked-in syndrome have lost their legal battles for the right to end their lives with medical help.
The High Court had been told of 58-year-old Tony Nicklinson's existence of "pure torture", which could continue, if he cannot end it, for another 20 years or more.
Mr Nicklinson said in a statement: "I am devastated by the court's decision.
"I am saddened that the law wants to condemn me to a life of increasing indignity and misery."
He told Sky News the judgement was "incredibly one-sided" and that he believed he had grounds for appeal.
"The only points they seem to have addressed are the points put forward by the opposition," he said.
"All of the points we put forward have barely been touched upon."
Mr Nicklinson's wife, Jane, said he was "absolutely heartbroken".
His case was being heard along with that of a 47-year-old man who cannot be named for legal reasons, but who is referred to as Martin.
Lord Justice Toulson, sitting with Mr Justice Royce and Mrs Justice Macur, said both are tragic cases which raise constitutional issues and "present society with legal and ethical questions of the most difficult kind".
Both men suffer from catastrophic physical disabilities, but their mental processes are unimpaired and they are fully conscious of their predicament.
Barring unforeseen medical advances, neither man's condition is capable of physical improvement.
The judge said: "To do as Tony wants, the court would be making a major change in the law. To do as Martin wants, the court would be compelling the Director of Public Prosecutions to go beyond his established legal role.
"These are not things which the court should do. It is not for the court to decide whether the law about assisted dying should be changed and, if so, what safeguards should be put in place.
"Under our system of government these are matters for Parliament to decide, representing society as a whole, after parliamentary scrutiny, and not for the court on the facts of an individual case or cases."
Mr Justice Royce agreed, saying: "No one could fail to be deeply moved by the terrible predicament faced by these men struck down in their prime and facing a future bereft of hope.
"Some will say the judges must step in to change the law. Some will be sorely tempted to do so.
"But the short answer is that to do so here would be to usurp the function of Parliament in this classically sensitive area."
Mr Nicklinson wanted a declaration that it would not be unlawful "on the grounds of necessity" for his GP, or another doctor, to assist him to die.
Alternatively, he wanted a declaration that the current law on murder or assisted suicide was incompatible with his right to respect for his private life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Martin was primarily seeking a clarification of policy so that professional people who might be willing to assist him to commit suicide through the use of Dignitas, the Swiss group that specialises in assisted dying, would know whether they would be "more likely than not" to face prosecution in England.
Rejecting all the applications made by both men, Lord Justice Toulson said it would be wrong "for the court to depart from the long established position that voluntary euthanasia is murder, however understandable the motives may be ..."
It would also be wrong to hold that Article 8 afforded a possible defence to murder, said the judge.
Mr Nicklinson was left paralysed by a catastrophic stroke while on a business trip to Athens in 2005.
He has summed up his existence as "dull, miserable, demeaning, undignified and intolerable", a life that he does not wish to live for decades to come.
Mr Nicklinson's lawyer, Saimo Chahal, said he intended to appeal the decision.
"Naturally it's a very disappointing judgement we've received today, but it's not altogether surprising," she said.
"It would take a very bold court, in the first instance, to make the decisions that Tony has made. Today is obviously not the last word."
Anti-euthanasia campaign group Care Not Killing welcomed the ruling.
DNK spokesman Dr Andrew Fergusson said: "It confirms the simple truth that the current law exists to protect those without a voice: the disabled, terminally ill and elderly, who might otherwise feel pressured into ending their lives."