A majority in the Supreme Court has dismissed two appeals seeking a ruling that current English law is incompatible with the right to dignity and a private life.

The appeals were brought by Jane Nicklinson, widow of Tony Nicklinson, the “locked-in syndrome” sufferer who campaigned for and was repeatedly denied an assisted death, and Paul Lamb, who is seeking the right to an assisted death following his near-total paralysis in a road accident. Although the court dismissed the appeals, the lead judge, Lord Neuberger, and others said they were doing so partly to allow parliament to reconsider the question of assisted dying, to resolve a pressing public issue: the future treatment of people who have made an informed decision to end their life, but because they are incapable, need the assistance of a third party to do so. If serious consideration is not given to legalising assisted suicide, there is a “real prospect” a future legal challenge will succeed, Lord Neuberger said.

The judgment made clear that it would not be incompatible with human rights for parliament to make assisted dying legal and that the fundamental principles to be discussed in such cases are to do with individuals’ freedom of choice.