With family at his side, Tony Nicklinson gets his wish
Right-to-die campaigner passes away days after losing legal challenge over assisted suicide
Thursday 23 August 2012
Tony Nicklinson, the right-to-die campaigner who lost his landmark legal challenge last week, has died after contracting pneumonia and refusing food for several days.
Mr Nicklinson, who had endured locked-in syndrome for seven years since suffering a stroke, died at his Wiltshire home surrounded by his wife, two daughters and sister yesterday morning. He was 58.
In the past few days, he wrote a goodbye message to be posted on his Twitter account in the event of his death. Yesterday his family released it. "Goodbye world the time has come, I had some fun," it read.
Last week he said he planned to take his legal challenge over assisted suicide to the country's highest court after three High Court judges ruled against him. He was visibly heartbroken at the decision, but said he would keep fighting, despite worsening pain.
But the judgement, which said that only Parliament could be entrusted to make such a momentous change to the law, appears to have taken its toll and crushed his hopes. He told his lawyers afterwards: "So, we lost. In truth I am crestfallen, totally devastated and very frightened. I fear for the future and the misery it is bound to bring.
"I suppose it was wrong of me to invest so much hope and expectation into the judgement but I really believed in the veracity of the arguments and quite simply could not understand how anybody could disagree with the logic. I guess I forgot the emotional component."
Mr Nicklinson, who suffered a stroke in 2005 which left him completely physically dependent but cognitively sharp, began refusing food and contracted pneumonia. He had made an Advance Directive in 2004 refusing any life-sustaining treatment. His death certificate has been signed by a doctor and will not be referred to the coroner or police.
The appeal over his assisted suicide case will now come to an end, unless someone in similar circumstances steps forward to pursue the action. Last week, the High Court judges, though clearly moved by his plight, rejected his attempt to have the common law defence of necessity extended to murder and assisted suicide so it could be used by a health professional who might help him die.
They also rejected the legal challenge by another locked-in-syndrome sufferer, referred to as Martin, who wanted the Director of Public Prosecutions to change the 2010 guidance on assisted suicide so that professionals, and not just relatives, could help someone travel to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland without fear of prosecution. Martin confirmed last night that he would be taking his case to the Court of Appeal. He said: "I am relieved for Tony and offer my condolences to his family for the man they'll miss. I hope that I, too, can be set free from this existence but I would like it to be in the manner of my choosing."
After the ruling, Mr Nicklinson's daughter, Beth, told The Independent that the family was fully behind her father's right to die with dignity. The only other options were to go on fighting or to starve himself to death, his wife Jane said.
Beth paid tribute to her father on Twitter yesterday: "RIP @TonyNicklinson. Couldn't have asked for a better dad, so strong. You are now at peace, we will be fine. I love you xxx".
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