'A former supreme court justice has defended people who break the law on assisted dying but urged them to face up to the consequences of their actions.
Delivering the opening speech of this year’s BBC Reith Lectures, Jonathan Sumption QC, who retired from the bench last December, surprised many by declaring there was “no moral obligation to obey the law”.
His lecture series, Law and the Decline of Politics, questions whether courts and lawyers have over-expanded their role and begun to usurp the traditional, legislative function of parliament.
That political tension has been most apparent in a long-running series of judicial review challenges over laws banning assisted dying. Parliament last voted on assisted dying in 2015, rejecting by 330 to 118 a private member’s bill to legalise assistance for those who are terminally ill and likely to die within six months.
Last year lawyers for Noel Conway, a retired lecturer paralysed from the neck down by progressive motor neurone disease, argued that the 1961 Suicide Act, which criminalises anyone assisting a death, was incompatible with his human rights. His appeal, an attempt to prevent end-of-life suffering, was dismissed.
Taking questions at Middle Temple Hall in central London, where he gave his opening lecture, Lord Sumption was asked about the state of the law by a widow who had been investigated by police for accompanying her terminally ill husband to a Swiss assisted dying clinic.'
Read more: Ex-supreme court justice defends those who break assisted dying law
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