Former judge Lord Sumption tells cancer sufferer her life is "less valuable" than others

18 January 2021, 08:51 | Updated: 18 January 2021, 08:52

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

A former Supreme Court justice has been criticised after telling a woman with stage 4 cancer that her life was "less valuable" than others during a televised debate on coronavirus lockdowns.

The former judge made the comments during a TV debate around the question: "Is lockdown punishing too many for the greater good?"

Speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari the woman at the centre of the story Deborah James explained what happened.

But she also said that was the kind of response she was expecting from the former judge.

"I was expecting the kind of response that he gave me so I wasn't taken too aback by it, but it doesn't make it right," she told LBC.

But she added that it opens up a "can of worms" as to the pressures on the NHS, which she said was part of a wider ethical debate.

Mrs James has had 17 tumours in her lifetime and had her latest cancer operation was just six weeks ago.

Lord Sumption has come under fire for the comments
Lord Sumption has come under fire for the comments. Picture: PA

During the show, Lord Sumption, who sat on the Supreme Court from 2012 to 2018, argued against lockdown measures for everyone, saying older and vulnerable people can isolate themselves "if they want to".

He said he did not accept that "all lives are of equal value", adding: "My children's and my grandchildren's life is worth much more than mine because they've got a lot more of it ahead."

Responding to his comments, another programme guest, Deborah James, who has stage 4 bowel cancer, said: "With all due respect Lord Sumption, I'm the person who you say their life is not valuable. I live with metastatic bowel cancer."

Lord Sumption then interrupted her to say: "I didn't say it wasn't valuable, I said it was less valuable."

Ms James continued: "My response to that would be, 'Who are you to question and put a value on life?'