A paralysed Swinnow man who challenged the law which criminalises assisted suicide has died, aged 65.
Paul Lamb was one of the most prominent activists for the right to die in the UK and was admired for his keen sense of humour, fortitude, and bravery,
In 1990, he was severely injured in a car accident and left with no function below his neck, apart from limited movement in his right arm. His condition required round the clock care and he suffered daily pain as a result.
Prior to his accident, the father of two had enjoyed a successful career as a builder and champion greyhound racer.
Mr Lamb took on several legal challenges over the current law on assisted suicide, which he said breached his human rights. It is currently a criminal offence and carries a maximum 14-year prison sentence.
Outside of his legal challenges, Paul was a fervent activist and leading light within the right to die movement.
In 2019, he led the charge for a change in the law when speaking to members of the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group.
Last he set in motion the campaign for a parliamentary inquiry into assisted dying. That led this year to more than 50 MPs and peers backing his calls, by signing the largest joint letter ever on assisted dying.
Following his death, carer Francesca Hepworth said:
“Paul’s death has been a shock to us all, but I’m glad he is finally at peace.
“For years, Paul grappled with his condition and faced increasing pain, discomfort, and distress.
“But throughout it all, what scared him the most was his utter lack of control, and the prospect of his pain becoming too much to handle.
“I know Paul was resolute in his belief that nobody should be forced to suffer, and determined to keep fighting to change the law.
“I only regret that he now won’t be able to see such a choice realised, if the law were to change.
“I’m proud to have known him, and been able to call such a brave and courageous man my friend. I am going to miss him.”
Speaking about the importance of the right to die at Humanists UK’s Convention in Cambridge in 2017, Paul said: “I know when it comes to it, in the later years of my life, this country will hopefully look after me.
“And ideally let me have a death in the privacy and comfort of my own home, with my family and friends that I want around me.
“I don’t want to have to go to a strange country, where I don’t know people, and they don’t know me. That for me feels like being shoved out of the back door because I am some kind of embarrassment to the country… The word I cannot cope with is “sympathy”. I’ve never been after the sympathy vote, and I never will. I just want the law changing.”
In 2014, Mr Lamb and the family of fellow right-to-die campaigner Tony Nicklinson lost their case at the Supreme Court, but judges said parliament should be given the opportunity to re-consider the law.
Five years later, he lost a case at the High Court to challenge the law on assisted dying, with two judges telling him his case was “unarguable” and should not proceed to a full hearing.
Commenting on Paul’s death, Humanists UK’s Chief Executive Andrew Copson said:
‘Paul Lamb was a tireless advocate for the right to die who dedicated his life to championing choice for those with terminal or incurable illnesses. He endured near constant pain and suffering.
“But despite this, Paul never accepted the injustice of our country’s ban on assisted dying for the incurably suffering, nor wavered in his determination to change the law. He leaves behind a fierce legacy of campaigning, which we are determined to continue in his honour.
“His death is a loss to us all, and our thoughts and wishes are with his friends and family.”