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london: A severely disabled man with locked-in syndrome will endeavour to change euthanasia laws by convincing three High Court judges that any doctor who helps him to die should not face criminal charges.
Tony Nicklinson is asking the court to extend the common law of “necessity” to assisted suicide and murder so that he can be medically helped to die without the doctor risking prosecution.
Nicklinson, 58, who has been able to move only his eyelids since suffering a stroke in 2005, said yesterday that being able to choose when to die was his most fundamental human right.
Human rights lawyer Saimo Chahal will argue that the government is breaching Nicklinson’s Article 8 right to “privacy, dignity and autonomy”, which he cannot exercise independently because of severe disability.
In an e-mail interview, Nicklinson said: “It is a person’s first human right to be able to determine when, where and how to end his own life. All this talk about a person’s life being ‘a gift from God and only he can decide when a person’s life can end’ is utter rubbish. I object to being told what I can and cannot do by a faith I don’t believe in (for the record I am an atheist).
“I am denied my most basic human right; I object to society telling me that I must live until I die of natural causes and I will do all I can to restore those rights.”
Nicklinson, a civil engineer, suffered the stroke while in Greece on business, just after his 51st birthday.
One of the doctors who helped save his life has expressed shock at his ongoing plight. In an interview for the Dispatches programme Let our Dad Die aired on Channel 4, neurologist Dr Stelios Doris said: “Death is more normal than to stay alive in this condition. So when I was informed that he was still alive I was surprised and sad. I wouldn’t like for even my worst enemy to stay alive in this condition for so many years… it’s a mistake that he survived.”
Nicklinson said: “I am sure that the quality of the life saved will feature more in the debate about assisted dying as more people are ‘victims’ of the life-at-all-costs policy.
“Doctors have no choice but to save a life, but the person so saved should, after a reasonable period of time, be given the option of assisted dying.”
Nicklinson believes that his case has “rattled” religious and anti-euthanasia campaigners, who fear that a victory for him would signal a slippery slope for elderly and disabled people because it does not seek to fundamentally change the law on murder or suicide.
His wife Jane accused those opposed to her husband’s action of “scaremongering” and insisted that his fight to die would not cascade into elderly people being forced to accept early death.
Nicklinson became a Twitter sensation last week after expressing his strong opinions on life, death, politics and rugby.
He says he is “amazed” and “flattered” at the response on Twitter, where he has attracted 13 000 followers in four days. – The Independent