Paralysed man seeks right to die

 
Tony Nicklinson Tony Nicklinson is unable to speak

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A severely disabled 57 year old man is to ask a High Court judge to allow a doctor to end his life. Tony Nicklinson issued proceedings in a case which will challenge the law on murder.

Mr Nicklinson was paralysed from the neck down following a stroke in 2005 and left with "locked-in syndrome". He is unable to speak and communicates by nodding his head at letters on a board or by using a computer which responds to eye movements.

Suffer

In a statement released by his lawyers, Mr Nicklinson said: "When the time is right I want to be able to die at home with a drug which a doctor could give me so that I can take it with help and go to sleep peacefully with my family around to say goodbye to me. That would be a good death. What I have to look forward to is a wretched ending with uncertainty, pain, and suffering while my family watch on helplessly. Why must I suffer these indignities? If I were able bodied I could put an end to my life when I want to. Why is life so cruel?"

Earlier this year his legal team said they would be asking the Director of Public Prosecutions to clarify the law on so-called mercy killing. Saimo Chahal from Bindmans solicitors said the DPP had made it clear there was no flexibility on the law and anyone who deliberately took someone's life would be charged with murder.

Locked-In Syndrome

  • Condition in which patient is mute and totally paralysed, except for eye movements, but remains conscious
  • Usually results from massive haemorrhage or other damage, affecting upper part of brain stem, which destroys almost all motor function, but leaves the higher mental functions intact

She said the delay in bringing the action had been due to difficulties in obtaining legal aid, which had now been granted. A full hearing before a judge in the Family Division of the High Court will begin next year.

This legal action is not being brought against the DPP but the Ministry of Justice. Ms Chahal told me it would be a "full-frontal attack on the law of murder". She said they would be seeking a declaration of the sort sometimes issued by the High Court allowing the withdrawal of nutrition and hydration from patients in a persistent vegetative state.

Murder

Last year the DPP, Keir Starmer QC issued guidance on assisted suicide in England and Wales which made it clear that deliberate killing or euthanasia, would always be prosecuted:

"It is murder or manslaughter for a person to do an act that ends the life of another, even if he or she does so on the basis that he or she is simply complying with the wishes of the other person concerned."

Last year the Scottish Parliament rejected plans to make it legal for someone terminally ill to seek help to end their life.

A spokesperson for the British Medical Association said: "The BMA is opposed to assisted suicide and to doctors taking a role in any form of assisted dying. We support the current law and are not seeking any change in UK legislation on this issue."

 
Fergus Walsh Article written by Fergus Walsh Fergus Walsh Medical correspondent

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 31.

    My Nan is in her 90s, she has no short term memory, failing kidneys, is bed-bound & incredibly frail. Every few minutes she asks us to 'give her arsenic' and 'wants her coffin'. I dread losing her but wish she could slip quietly slip away with us by her side so her suffering could end. When we euthanised our beloved dog it was considered a kindness. This feels inhumane.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 30.

    My Mum was 'locked-in' by Motor Neurone Disease. Her only communication was blinking. Her body in an agonising, constant state of spasm. Eventually, she chose to starve herself to death. I look forward to the day that we look back on these barbaric times, when we were not allowed to relieve the suffering of loved ones. Stop the torture!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 29.

    A longer life doesn't always equal a better one, though the law seems to assume otherwise.
    Let this man, and any one else sound of mind, to choose their life and death with dignity and free from pain. The law forces Doctors to do harm.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 28.

    Imagine, if you were in that situation, how much you'd loathe anyone who tried to remove the choice.

    Every time you got to the courts, hoping for release, only to find some idiot arguing that you had to be forced to stay alive.

    What punishment would you want inflicted on those who caused your suffering to be prolonged? You would despise them utterly.

    How dare anyone do this to the poor man?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 27.

    I've researched how to end my life as near to 'pleasantly' as possible, should I ever feel the need to. Just knowing I can, makes me feel free and that I don't have to do it just yet. I would, however, prefer the safety of a set up such as in Switzerland.

    The current law is cruel, outdated and forces people into an earlier death than they would want and also a more risky one. It HAS to change!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 26.

    Everyone deserves a decent life, but when the time comes with intracable pain and suffering, everyone deserves the right to say enoughs, enough. They need to know that this suffering and pain will end. They should control the process and be permitted to die in peace,

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 25.

    The "No" lobby will soon be coming out with the predictable "euthanasia is a slippery slope" comments.
    But we are already on a slippery slope - going the other way.
    We could argue "if we keep this man alive against his will, what happens as medical teachnology allows us to keep increasingly unviable people alive"?
    How many more of us will suffer a fate like this, forced into a living death?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 24.

    His choice, his right, no one elses.

  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 23.

    How many times have we heard someone say: "I wanted to die"? That means that he is no longer in the same situation and things got better. Our creator knows more than we do

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 22.

    The choices of those terminally ill or severely paralysed in this country is a disgrace - its 'live' in absolute agony/trapped in a what is practically a dead body for the remainder of your years or emigrate to Switzerland to be charged a minimum of 4000 euros by Dignitas for the right to die.
    With it a parliamentary decision only, how much that decision is influenced by religious organisations?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 21.

    What is going on here? Legally, doctors are OBLIGED to withhold treatment which the sane, adult patient does not consent to eg. Jehovahs witness refusing blood transfusion. This patient is adult, sane, and does not consent, so giving med. treatment anyway is an assault & so ILLEGAL. This patient does not consent, so how can not treating him be murder? drs MUST NOT treat him if he does not consent.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 20.

    I have just created an e-petition on the HM Government website. It is titled 'Allow Tony Nicklinson to die at a time of his own choosing'

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 19.

    Why cannot Tony Nicklinson die at a time of his own choosing? Would you keep a pet alive in the same circumstances?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 18.

    To keep any human being alive in such a condition can only constitute torture and torment to me - it is like being trapped inside a body with motor neuron syndrome. Hard to believe how cruel mankind can be.

    carol loving, author
    My Son. My Sorrow: The Tragic Tale of Dr. Kevorkian's Youngest Patient

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 17.

    If waterboarding is classified as torture, then surely a person who is paralysed and gasping for breath, choking on their own body fluids, must be classed as being tortured?...what happend to human rights.

    Withdrawing nutrition and hydration does not seem to be a humane death either.

    These people should be allowed to die a painless death by drugs, when they request it.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 16.

    A year ago I sufferred basilar artery thrombosis which should have left me with 'locked in' syndrome like this poor gentleman. Fortunately, I have made a full recovery. I still have the blocked artery so I am in danger of a further stroke. I fear being locked in & would not wish to be kept artificially kept alive. However, nor would I wish my life to be artificially terminated.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 15.

    All this poor chap wants is to die when HE chooses.He has lived within a democratic society,where freedom to choose is a cherished right.This his the end game for him,but he his being denied his last freedom of choice.The law HAS to be changed!!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 14.

    And the high and mighty who make the laws and uphold them - they know all about the suffering, indignity, shame, pain and feelings of those directly afflicted with an inability to end their own lives?

    I thought not.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 13.

    This poor man, who wants only to have a dignified and pain free exit from the world. Surely legislation should also be about treating people as human beings as well as protecting the vulnerable.I have seen my own father die in great pain and I am sure he, as a doctor himself, would not condone the law as is. Those with power and influence need to try and imagine stepping into the shoes of others.

  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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