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Tony Nicklinson Wins Right For Case To Be Heard In Court

March 12, 2012

Tony Nicklinson, who is paralysed and wants a doctor to be able to lawfully end his life, should be allowed to proceed with his “right-to-die” case, a High Court judge has ruled.

The 58-year-old from Melksham, Wiltshire, has “locked-in syndrome” following a stroke in 2005 and is unable to carry out his own suicide.

His is seeking legal protection for any doctor who helps him end his life.

The Ministry of Justice argues making such a ruling would change murder laws.

“Locked-in syndrome” leaves people with paralysed bodies but fully-functioning minds.

The judge’s ruling now means that Mr Nicklinson’s case will go to a full hearing, where medical evidence can be heard.

Following the judge’s ruling that his case can proceed, Mr Nicklinson’s wife Jane read out a statement from her husband on BBC 5live.

It said: “I’m delighted that the issues surrounding assisted dying are to be aired in court. Politicians and others can hardly complain with the courts providing the forum for debate if the politicians continue to ignore one of the most important topics facing our society today.

“It’s no longer acceptable for 21st Century medicine to be governed by 20th Century attitudes to death.”

‘Stressful’ wait

Mr Nicklinson, who communicates through the use of an electronic board or special computer, said before the ruling that his life was “dull, miserable, demeaning, undignified and intolerable”.

During the radio interview, Mrs Nicklinson passed on questions to her husband, using his letters board to spell out his response.

When asked what he hoped would happen next, he replied: “I will be able to access a doctor when the time is right.”

He went on to spell out: “I can just about cope with life at the moment, but not forever.”

Mrs Nicklinson said she was “really pleased” with the judge’s decision. “It’s been quite stressful waiting for this decision.

“It’s really good to know that the judge thinks that we have a case that needs to be argued.”

Earlier, Mrs Nicklinson said that her husband “just wants to know that, when the time comes, he has a way out”.

“If you knew the kind of person that he was before, life like this is unbearable for him,” she added.

She said she did not know when her husband might actually want to die. “I suppose just when he can’t take it any more,” she said.

Mr Nicklinson, who has two grown-up daughters, launched a legal action seeking court declarations that a doctor could intervene to end his “indignity” and have a “common law defence of necessity” against any murder charge.

But David Perry QC, representing the Ministry of Justice, told the High Court that Mr Nicklinson “is saying the court should positively authorise and permit as lawful the deliberate taking of his life”.

He added: “That is not, and cannot be, the law of England and Wales unless Parliament were to say otherwise.”

BBC legal correspondent Clive Coleman says the case goes beyond assisted suicide as Mr Nicklinson’s paralysis is so severe it would prevent him from receiving assistance to kill himself and he would have to be killed – and that would amount to murder.

He says Mr Nicklinson is seeking a court declaration based on his right to respect for private life under Article 8 of the Human Rights Convention – in effect saying that in his circumstances, his right to life includes the right to end his life in a humane manner of his choosing.

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