Lord Sumption and the Values of Life, Liberty, and Security: Before and Since the COVID-19 Outbreak

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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 (Nicklinson) 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.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbermedethics-2021-107332
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Medical Ethics
Early online date12 Jul 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2021. Re-use permitted under CC BY. Published by BMJ.

Structured keywords

  • Covid19


  • Bills
  • Laws and Cases
  • Coercion
  • COVID-19
  • End-of-life
  • Philosophical Ethics


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