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Bindmans’s crowdfunding looks to change the law on assisted dying

'The courts should give serious and in-depth consideration to the issues,' says Saimo Chahal QC

11 March 2016

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'The courts should give serious and in-depth consideration to the issues,' says Saimo Chahal QC

The lawfulness of the UK's ban on assisted dying is to be challenged once again as campaigners launch a crowdfunding site to pursue their cases in the High Court.

In September 2015, MPs voted against changing the law to allow doctors to assist terminally ill patients to end their lives.

The debate followed a call from the Supreme Court for parliament to consider a change in the law after deciding that it could not rule in favour of a locked-in syndrome sufferer Tony Nicklinson and his appeal to be given the right to die on his own terms.

Last year, the issue of assisted dying was once again made headlines when businessman Jeffrey Spector killed himself at a clinic in Switzerland after being diagnosed with inoperable tumour on his spine.

Spector's widow, Elaine, has stated that while she and her three daughters respected Jeffrey's choice, she believes it would have been more humane to have allowed him to die in England rather than having a premature death in Switzerland.

Elaine, who is represented by Bindmans, has argued that her husband was forced to travel to Dignitas while still well enough to do so, thereby shortening his life, and that, as a result, the UK is in breach of articles 2 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights by failing to allow an assisted dying law.

Two of Bindmans's other clients, 'J' and her husband 'V' - both of whom wish to remain anonymous - also support a change in the law. The firm explained that J is suffering from a grade 4 cancer and had a brain tumour removed at the end of 2015. She is horrified by the idea of her deteriorating health and a painful and demeaning death.

Her husband, V, supports her wish to end her life in a dignified way. J has decided to travel abroad to die when her pain and suffering become unbearable. The pair will be seeking to challenge the ban on assisted dying.

Elaine, along with J and V, has launched a crowdfunding site, in conjunction with the Public Law team at Bindmans, to help fund their case. They intend to argue that the law is inhumane and is an issue of public importance. The site is initially looking to raise £50,000 to cover steps up to but excluding trial.  

Saimo Chahal QC (Hon), a partner at Bindmans, who acted for right to die campaigners Debbie Purdy, Tony Nicklinson, and Paul Lamb said: 'It is now nearly two years since the Supreme Court issued judgment in the Nicklinson and Lamb cases inviting parliament to review the law.

'Although the Commons debated the issue of assisted dying for the terminally ill last year, the debate did not scratch the surface of this complicated moral, ethical, and legal issue - you only have to read the transcript of the debate to know this.

'Virtually every week we hear of the pain and suffering of people who have to make a choice about how to die with dignity and how they are prevented by the current law from exercising that choice. This causes a huge amount of pain and suffering to the person concerned and to their families.

'I get very regular requests for advice on this subject and think it is time that the courts reviewed the law with serious and in-depth consideration of the issues.'

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