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The television version of Hilary Mantel’s novel Wolf Hall is the latest account to challenge St Thomas More’s reputation as a courageous defender of the rights of conscience. Was he, in truth, a liberal icon, a religious fanatic or something in between?
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The Supreme Court today rejected an appeal to allow doctors to help people to die, but challenged the Government to review the law around euthanasia.
The court rejected by a majority of seven judges to two an appeal by the families of the late Tony Nicklinson, of Wiltshire, and Paul Lamb, of Leeds.
But two justices, Lady Hale and Lord Kerr, said that the existing ban on assisted suicide was incompatible with human rights, while the president of the Supreme Court, Lord Neuberger, said the appeal was rejected to “accord Parliament the opportunity” to change the law.
A majority – five justices – ruled that judges do have the constitutional authority to declare that the ban contravenes EU rights legislation. Lord Neuberger agreed, adding that the Court did not do so only because Parliament was in a position to act, a reference to Lord Falconer's Bill to legalise assisted dying.
Mr Nicklinson, who died in 2012 aged 58, suffered from locked-in syndrome. His family, along with Mr Lamb, who was paralysed in a road accident, have campaigned for seven years for doctors who help patients to die to be protected under law. Mr Nicklinson's case was rejected by the High Court but his widow, Jane, was given special permission to continue his case after his death.
In a separate challenge that was unanimously rejected a man known only as "Martin" appealed for the Court to expand legal protection for those who assist a family member to travel abroad to die.
Lord Falconer’s bill will receive its second reading on 18 July.