(L-R) Beth and Jane Nicklinson, daughter and wife of Tony Nicklinson who suffers from locked-in syndrome, leave the High Court in Central London in 2012 after a hearing in Tony Nicklinson's legal bid for the right to end his life when he chooses. Picture: ANDREW COWIE

London -

A paralysed man and the widow of a man with locked-in syndrome on Wednesday lost their battle for the right to assisted suicide in Britain's highest court.

Judges at the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal brought by Paul Lamb and Jane Nicklinson by a majority of seven to two after a hearing in December.

The pair had wanted a change to Britain's 1961 Suicide Act, which makes helping others to end their lives a crime.

They argued that it was incompatible with the right to respect for private and family life as set out in the European Convention on Human Rights.

Despite dismissing the appeal, the court ruled that the decision on assisted suicide was a domestic question for Britain, but disagreed on whether the courts or parliament should be able to make it.

Five judges argued that the court had the “constitutional authority” to overturn the ban, though only two would have done so.

The other four ruled that parliament was “better qualified to decide”.

Lamb, who has been unable to move any part of his body apart from his right hand after a car crash in 1991, said: “I am proud of myself for what I have done. I know it (the law) has to change.”

“I am disappointed, but it is a very positive step,” added Nicklinson.

“Parliament will have to discuss this.”

Nicklinson's husband Tony died two years ago.

He refused food after the High Court rejected his application for a declaration that a doctor would not be prosecuted for killing him or helping him to end his life. - Sapa-dpa