Nicklinson’s widow is refused right to appeal to higher court

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 03 October 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e6690
  1. Clare Dyer
  1. 1BMJ

The widow of Tony Nicklinson, the man with locked-in syndrome who starved himself to death after losing a High Court battle for voluntary euthanasia, has been refused permission to take his case on appeal to a higher court.1

The three judges who originally ruled against him in the High Court case last August acknowledged that it was “an important question whether the law of murder should be changed in the way Tony fought for.” But they reiterated their previous declaration that it was a matter for parliament, not the courts.2

Lord Justice Toulson said that he and the other two judges were “deeply conscious” of Jane Nicklinson’s suffering since the time of her husband’s stroke and “her frustration and distress over the state of the law.” But they were not satisfied that an alternative route to taking her husband’s case on appeal—allowing the claim to be amended so that she could claim damages and giving her permission to appeal on her own behalf—would have any real prospect of success either.

However, the judges gave permission for “Martin,” the other man with locked-in syndrome whose case was heard with Tony Nicklinson’s in the High Court, to take his case against the director of public prosecutions for England and Wales to the Court of Appeal. Martin had not asked for voluntary euthanasia but had challenged the director of public prosecutions’ guidelines, which put doctors more at risk of criminal proceedings than relatives if they help someone commit suicide.

Although the judges did not believe that Martin’s appeal would have any real prospect of success, they thought that their approach in their High Court judgment last August to the role of the director of public prosecutions and the 2009 House of Lords’ decision in the case of Debbie Purdy “raises questions of sufficient significance to merit consideration by the Court of Appeal.”3


Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e6690


View Abstract

Sign in

Log in through your institution

Free trial

Register for a free trial to to receive unlimited access to all content on for 14 days.
Sign up for a free trial