Tony Nicklinson denied the right to die by High Court
Tony Nicklinson has been denied the right to assisted suicide after the High Court refused to allow doctors to help him end his life without fear of prosecution.
Mr Nicklinson has locked-in syndrome. Since a stroke in 2005, he has been paralysed from the neck down; he cannot talk and communicates by blinking his eyes. Mr Nicklinson voiced his disappointment on Twitter. He wrote: “I believe the legal team acting on my behalf is prepared to go all the way with this but unfortunately for me it means yet another period of physical discomfort, misery and mental anguish while we find out who controls my life – me or the state.”
Another man, known as Martin, was similarly denied. He wanted help from volunteers to make plans to end his life.
As a result of an earlier legal challenge in 2008 by multiple sclerosis sufferer Debbie Purdy (who wanted to know if her husband would be prosecuted if he helped her travel to the Swiss euthanasia clinic, Digitas), UK law was made to clarify its prosecution policy regarding assisted suicide. This was published in 2010, and lists 22 factors that are instrumental in the likelihood of prosecution in such a case. Doctors and volunteers are not covered.
Paul Tully, the general secretary of SPUC Pro-Life, said: “We believe that Mr Nicklinson and ‘Martin’ have lives of equal value to any other member of society. We urge those around them to rise to the challenge of helping them realise their value and overcome their sense of hopelessness.”
The judges said the implications on ruling in such cases extended far beyond those involved. They expressed compassion and sympathy, but said significant changes to murder laws would be necessary (in Mr Nicklinson’s case), and only parliament could act on these.
Debbie Purdy told the Financial Times earlier this year that she hopes the law will be changed in Britain, permitting her to choose an assisted death at home. She said: “I don’t believe that the human race is just waiting for nan to die to inherit her stamp collection. People think there will be millions streaming in to be bumped off, but it’s not like that.”