Lord Sumption and the values of life, liberty and security: before and since the COVID-19 outbreak

Journal of Medical Ethics 48 (10):779-784 (2022)
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Abstract

Lord Sumption, a former Justice of the Supreme Court, has been a prominent critic of coronavirus restrictions regulations in the UK. Since the start of the pandemic, he has consistently questioned both the policy aims and the regulatory methods of the Westminster government. He has also challenged rationales that hold that all lives are of equal value. In this paper, I explore and question Lord Sumption’s views on morality, politics and law, querying the coherence of his broad philosophy and his arguments regarding coronavirus regulations with his judicial decision in the assisted-dying case of R v Ministry of Justice. In Nicklinson, Lord Sumption argued for restrictions on liberty given the priority of the sanctity of life principle and the protection of others who may be vulnerable, as well as for deference to policy-making institutions in instances of values-based disagreement. The apparent inconsistencies in his positions, I argue, are not clearly reconcilable, and invite critical analysis of his impacts on health law and policy.

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