The Right to Die

 The Telegraph

A man in the UK has secured a judicial review of the law surrounding him having the “right to die”. He wants the right to end his own life, basically at the blink of an eye:

Locked-in syndrome sufferer Tony Nicklinson accused politicians of ignoring “one of the most important issues facing our society today” as he voiced his “delight” at winning the first stage of his right-to-die court battle.

Mr Nicklinson, a married father-of-two who communicates only by blinking or nodding after being left paralysed following a stroke, says he is “fed up” with his life.

He is asking for declarations that doctors can help him end his “intolerable” existence without facing a murder charge, saying it would be the “right and decent thing” to empower people to make such a choice.

A High Court judge ruled that his case could proceed to judicial review, despite arguments by the Ministry of Justice that it should be struck out because what Mr Nicklinson wants the courts to do should be a matter for Parliament.

Mr Nicklinson who sums up his life as “dull, miserable, demeaning, undignified and intolerable”, will now have his case heard fully later this year.

The 57-year-old welcomed the decision in a statement read out by his wife Jane, a former nurse.

He 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.”

Mr Nicklinson, who lives in Melksham, Wiltshire, and has two grown-up daughters, suffered a stroke while on a business trip to Athens in 2005.

In a statement to the court he said: “I have no privacy or dignity left. I am fed up with my life and don’t want to spend the next 20 years or so like this.

“Why should I be denied a right, the right to die of my own choosing when able bodied people have that right and only my disability prevents me from exercising that right?”

I think they really need to make sure there is an agreed signal or something otherwise he could wind up dead just because he had a tic in one eye.


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  • Peter Wilson

    More ethical issues to discuss on WO! 

    As with all such issues, (gay marriage equality is another) there are competing rights that need to be resolved. Does allowing people to end their own lives so directly cheapen life in general, and encourage others, such as young people to end their lives, because, say, they failed an exam? And what about the subtle pressure by relatives for disabled people to end it.

    I suspect the consensus would be, (like gay marriage) we’ve got the balance about right, and the status quo is agreeable to all. 

    • @BoJangles

      Sounds like you would prefer this issue also to be left up to the state, or your church.

  • Maybe

    I’d like one of the pro-lifers to live even a week not being able to move or talk or have any quality of life while still have a fully active mind and see how they feel after that – this poor guy is suffering and the only reason he is still alive is because he can’t kill himself :(

    • Peter Wilson

      I’m guessing that’s why it’s an issue. I’m sure there’s plenty of young people who fail exams, have relationship breakups etc, that believe life is not worth living. The latest ethical dilemna I read about was that parents should have the ability to “abort” new born babies who have unexpected disabilities through birth (which is a reasonably common occurence.)

      I’m not saying there’s an easy answer.

  • Nice topic to bring up WO. This is a huge issue as the western world moves more and more to some perceived ideal of what a person should be to be kept alive. Remember this?

    Trapped in his own body for 23 years – the coma victim who screamed unheard
    • Misdiagnosed man’s tale of rebirth thanks to doctor
    • Total paralysis masked fully functioning brain
    Rom Houben, 46, was diagnosed as being in a vegetative state after an accident in his 20s but can now communicate by omputer keyboard.
    For 23 years Rom Houben was ­imprisoned in his own body. He saw his doctors
    and nurses as they visited him during their daily rounds; he listened to the conversations of his carers; he heard his mother deliver the news to him that his father had died. But he could do nothing. He was unable to communicate with his doctors or family. He could not move his head or weep, he could only listen.
    Doctors presumed he was in a vegetative state following a near-fatal car crash in 1983. They believed he could feel nothing and hear nothing. For 23 years.

    • Peter Wilson

      Absolutely a huge issue, with important ramifications. I’ve always believed as long as your brain is functioning, you can adapt, and survive. What’s important is the drift towards devaluing life, and assuming without a quality of life we shouldn’t bother. How soon before relatives (and beneficiaries of a will) could apply to a court to end an ailing parent’s life.

  • I think the key point was this:

    “Why should I be denied a right, the right to die of my own choosing when able bodied people have that right and only my disability prevents me from exercising that right?”

    While technically, Suicide is not legal, able-bodied persons are able to choose their death. Of course, asking doctors to intervene is a big jump, but I think it’s time we advance this issue.

  • Troy

    I’ve never lost sleep over this issue, never.  My thought is simply this.  Who owns one’s self?  Who holds the ownership papers or the title deed of one’s self?  I’d challenge anyone to say that it was anyone but one’s self and if they thought that other’s “own you”, they’d better come up with a cogent undeniable set of premises that led to an undeniably truthful conclusion.  Citing religion, or the so called “right or good” ethics of others, is not a valid argument to put forth.

  • Karlos

    My issue with this is we say that it is the ‘humane thing to do’ to put down an animal in this situation, but not when its a human? Does no-one else see the blatant hypocrisy in the current state of legislation?

    • Peter Wilson

      You mean, when an animal has a broken leg, we have them “put down” ? You argue that to be consistent we should kill humans when they become of no use.