The High Court today ruled that a paralysed man can begin legal proceedings for a doctor to end his "intolerable life".
Tony Nicklinson, 57, who suffers from "locked-in" syndrome following a massive stroke he suffered while on a business trip in Greece in 2005, is paralysed from the neck-down, and can only communicate via a voice-synthesiser that registers blinking.
He launched a legal action seeking the right for a doctor to be able to lawfully end his life, which he sums up as "dull, miserable, demeaning, undignified and intolerable", and have a "common law defence of necessity" against any murder charge.
Today's decision was announced by Mr Justice Charles, who had been asked to decide on a preliminary "strike out" application in the case made by the Ministry of Justice. He had heard argument that it was not for the courts to act, but Parliament.
Paul Bowen, acting for Mr Nicklinson at a previous hearing said the Ministry of Justice had not advanced any arguments which were a sufficient "knock-out blow" to justify striking out the action.
Bowen argued that Nicklinson's case was "an act of euthanasia or assisted suicide" and the only means "by which his suffering may be brought to an end and his fundamental common law rights of autonomy and dignity may be vindicated".
At a previous hearing, David Perry QC, representing the Ministry of Justice, said Nicklinson was asking the court to authorise and permit "the deliberate taking of his life".
His wife, Jane Nicklinson, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that death is the only way out for her husband.
The former nurse said: "We are asking for it to be legal for someone to end his life. The only way to relieve Tony's suffering is to kill him. There's nothing else that can be done for him.
"He can't do anything. He's completely paralysed and he can't speak. If he has an itch I have to scratch it for him.”
She added that her husband did not want to die immediately, but wanted to have the option available to him.
"He just wants to know when the time comes he has a way out. It's what he wants, and we are behind him…If you knew the kind of person he was before, life like this is unbearable for him. He realises as he gets older things are going to get worse."
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