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Locked-in sufferer dies after losing High Court battle

24 August 2012


"Goodbye world": Tony Nicklinson, who lost his appeal for an assisted death

"Goodbye world": Tony Nicklinson, who lost his appeal for an assisted death

TONY Nicklinson, a sufferer from locked-in syndrome ( Comment, 13 July; Letters, 20 July, 3 August), who last week lost a High Court appeal to be allowed to be assisted to end his life, died on Wednesday morning.

The Nicklinsons' family solicitor, Saimo Chahal, told the BBC that Mr Nicklinson's wife, Jane, had told her "that Tony went rapidly downhill over last weekend, having contracted pneumonia". Mrs Nicklinson said that, after Mr Nicklinson received the draft judgment, denying that he had the right to be assisted to die, "the fight seemed to go out of him".

A message posted on Mr Nicklinson's Twitter account by a member of his family said that he had died "of natural causes", aged 58. It continued: "Before he died, he asked us to tweet: 'Goodbye world the time has come, I had some fun.'"

On Thursday of last week, the High Court ruled in the case of Mr Nicklinson, who was left paralysed from the neck down after a stroke in 2005, and a second, unidentified man, who also suffers from locked-in syndrome. Lord Justice Toulson, Mr Justice Royce, and Mrs Justice Macur ruled that the court should not depart from the traditional legal position that "voluntary euthanasia is murder, however understandable the motives may be".

The Bishop of Bristol, the Rt Revd Mike Hill, wrote on his blog last Friday that the High Court "was surely right not to allow Tony Nicklinson the right to die with the assistance of a doctor. . . It is reported that many vulnerable and elderly people suffer abuse daily at the hands of their relatives. . . A very real question is whether any change in the law to facilitate assisted dying would make such people even more vulnerable to pressure from others to end their lives."

In a statement to the High Court, Mr Nicklinson had said: "By all means protect the vulnerable. By vulnerable, I mean those who cannot make decisions for themselves - just don't include me. I am not vulnerable. I don't need help or protection from death or those who would help me. If the legal consequences were not so huge, i.e. life imprisonment, perhaps I could get someone to help me."

The Revd Michael Wenham ( Features, 17 October 2008), a retired Anglican priest who has primary lateral sclerosis, a motor neurone disorder, wrote on his blog last Friday: "Primarily, it's good that a precedent to legalise killing has been resisted. Dress it up how you will, in whatever humanitarian, compassionate terms, deliberately to end life is killing. . . Since English law is case-law, one ruling in favour of assisted suicide would open the door for others - with all the adverse implications for the disabled, senile and terminally ill that could usher in."

Muslim patient. The Court of Protection heard the case this week of the family of a 55-year-old Muslim man, known as "L", who has severe brain damage. Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust has applied for a court declaration that it is not in the man's interests to resuscitate him if his condition worsens. The man's family want doctors to do everything they can to keep him alive. As Church Times went to press, the hearing was continuing.

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