Tony Nicklinson was 58 years old. An active
sports-loving man, he was left paralysed with locked-in syndrome by a stroke
seven years ago. He wanted a doctor to be able to lawfully end his life. At the
end of a four-day hearing at the High Court, he was refused.
Here’s what he said about his life.
“I have locked-in syndrome and it makes my
life a living nightmare. I cannot speak and I am also paralysed below the neck,
which means I need someone to do everything for me.
For example, 90 per cent of itches have to
be endured because by the time someone comes to scratch it and I have
laboriously explained where it is, the itch has gone. Now I just put up with
Or there is the screaming frustration of
wanting to make a point but knowing that the only way I can express my opinion,
by the board or computer, are useless in normal conversation. Another example
is having your teeth cleaned by someone else. It is a horrible experience and I
doubt you would want it done more than once a day. I could go on.
However, all these things are physical and
arguably one can learn to live with them. What I find impossible to live with
is the knowledge that, unlike you, I have no way out – suicide – when this life
gets too much to bear.
I do not say these things to get your sympathy
but to get justice. It cannot be acceptable in 21st Century Britain that I am
denied the right to take my own life just because I am physically handicapped.”
Tony was able to use a normal Windows
computer with software to enable control by blinking the eyes, with two cameras
to track his eye movements. He wrote the article from memory in a
single session of about five hours, with a few changes the next day. Assisted dying is a controversial issue
which aims to help people to die who are physically unable to take their own
life or who can take their own life but want help to do so.
He continues, “I must declare an interest
because I am unable to take my own life. I require amendment to the murder law
to make it lawful in certain circumstances for one person to take another's
life (euthanasia) and [this] is the substance of my imminent court hearing.
Despite moments of gloom at the enormity of
my task, I am kept going by the fundamental injustice of my circumstances and
the need for change so that others won't have to endure such indignities if
they don't want to.
We are all individuals and each person
deserves an individual solution to his particular circumstances. A
one-size-fits-all solution of better care and more of it, such as opponents
advocate, is clearly not the answer. The option of assisted dying should be
available. It is astonishing that in 1969 we could put
a man on the Moon yet in 2012 we still cannot devise adequate rules governing
“Many opponents of assisted dying object
because they think it is wrong to take your own or another's life. Recently I
asked someone if there was anything I could say to make them change their mind.
They both replied there wasn't. I even suggested to one some safeguards for his
approval or otherwise. He totally ignored the question. Clearly any discussion
with them is a complete waste of time.
Much has been said about the part care
plays in assisted dying and the argument is essentially that better care and
more of it will expunge all thoughts of taking one's own life.
“This was said of me on a prestigious
national radio programme back in February. I invited the speaker to visit so
that she could tell me to my face what I am missing. So far all she has come up
with is a number of excuses not to visit. Draw your own conclusions. The only argument used by the opponents
that I can see, is to paint an apocalyptic picture of the future if assisted
dying is legalised."
"They often use Holland as the way it would
be in the UK, with 10 and 12-year-olds asking for and getting help to die and
old people being killed without them asking for it. All this and more is
apparently done with the blessing of the population and with the authorities
turning a blind eye to this orgy of unlawful killing. Curiously these opponents
fail to explain why we should adopt a flawed system instead of learning from
“One aspect of the opponents' argument that
makes my blood boil is the twisting of facts in order to scare ordinary people.
This is illustrated by the following story. Last week an opponent told me in a dark,
conspiratorial voice that in Holland they even had mobile euthanasia vans
supposedly touring neighbourhoods looking to drum up business like an ice cream
The truth is that the Dutch do indeed have
such vans. They are mobile offices and are necessary because there are only so
many doctors licensed to conduct assisted dying, so they go where requested to
save elderly patients from having to travel to a clinic. Not quite the sinister
purpose opponents would have you believe. In short, don't take anything an opponent
might say at face value – they can't be trusted.”
“For most people the debate is often remote
from ordinary lives but for me, the debate on assisted dying is truly a matter
of (an unhappy) life and (a pain-free) death. The next stroke could affect you
or a loved one; would you be happy to end up like me?”