Britain's murder laws could be radically reinterpreted if a severely disabled man succeeds in his legal battle to allow a doctor to kill him without the risk of prosecution.
Tony Nicklinson, a father of two from Wiltshire who once led an active life and loved extreme sports, is now trapped in his own body after a stroke left him paralysed from the neck down. A victim of "locked-in syndrome", he is unable to kill himself and instead wants a doctor to end his life without being prosecuted for murder.
Yesterday the High Court gave him permission to proceed with a full hearing on his case, including if a "common law defence of necessity" could be used to protect his loved ones or doctors from prosecution if they helped him end his life.
In a harrowing statement submitted to the High Court, Mr Nicklinson described how his life had become "intolerable" following a stroke in Athens six years ago that has left him completely dependent on others and only able to communicate through blinking. The ex-engineer, who used to live with his family in Dubai, said: "I have no privacy or dignity left."
The case is the latest "right to die" plea that has come before the courts amid a continued unwillingness by Parliament to grapple with the issue of legalising euthanasia in some cases.
Giving Mr Nicklinson permission to argue his case at a hearing this summer, Justice William Charles said the 53-year-old recognised he was "inviting the court to cross the Rubicon" in deciding if and when murder is ever justifiable. The Ministry of Justice tried to have the case thrown out, arguing only Parliament could decide whether someone could be legally killed. But Mr Nicklinson's legal team insisted the common-law definition of necessity might allow the judiciary to rule there were certain circumstances when someone could help end one's life.