Locked-in man Tony Nicklinson 'condemned to suffer'

 

Locked-in syndrome sufferer Tony Nicklinson's existence of "pure
torture" could continue for another 20 years or more if he does not win
the right to end his life when he chooses, the High Court heard today.

Paul Bowen QC, for 58-year-old Mr Nicklinson, from Melksham, Wiltshire, told three judges hearing his landmark "right-to-die" case: "Tony has now had almost seven years to contemplate his situation.

"With the continuing benefits of 21st century health and social care his life expectancy can be expected to be normal - another 20 years or more. He does not wish to live that life."

Mr Nicklinson, who suffered a catastrophic stroke in 2005 while on a business trip to Athens, sums up his existence as "dull, miserable, demeaning, undignified and intolerable".

A "very active and outgoing" man before the stroke, which left him paralysed below the neck and unable to speak, he now communicates by blinking or with limited head movement.

Mr Nicklinson, who wants a doctor to be able lawfully to end his life without fear of prosecution, describes how he has no "privacy or dignity left", and says that what he objects to is having his right to choose taken away from him.

Mr Bowen told Lord Justice Toulson, Mr Justice Royce and Mrs Justice Macur that he was being condemned to live in a state of suffering and indignity by the current law of assisted suicide and euthanasia.

The law was "anomalous and discriminatory" and had not stopped the "widespread practice of euthanasia, but has forced it underground".

But he told the judges that Mr Nicklinson was not seeking to persuade the court to "introduce an all-encompassing new regime legalising euthanasia and assisted suicide".

Mr Bowen added: "While he would welcome such a change, he accepts that such a regime can only be introduced by Parliament.

"However, there is no sign of Parliament introducing such a regime any time soon that would afford the claimant the opportunity of an assisted death with dignity."

Mr Nicklinson maintained that in the absence of statutory regulation he was entitled to "remedy" from the court.

Although he could not attend the London courtroom, he was determined to get his case across to the judges.

An email he sent to his solicitor, asking if it was possible for the lawyer to "tell/remind the judges a few things", was read out by Mr Bowen.

In the email he states: "I have wanted my life to end since 2007, so it is not a passing whim."

Mr Nicklinson also pointed out: "Legal arguments are fine but they should not forget that a life is affected by the decision they come to; a decision going against me condemns me to a 'life' of increasing misery."

The hearing was attended by his wife Jane, 56, and the couple's daughters Lauren, 24, and Beth, 23, who all support his decision.

Mr Bowen said Lauren described her father as being "forced to live an existence trapped in a broken body, following someone else's rules, rules that he cannot abide by. He is living a life he does not wish to live. This is pure torture for him".

The QC said that worse than the physical discomfort of his situation was the mental pain it caused.

His world "is the bed he lies in each night and the armchair beside it, with occasional trips to the commode to which he is moved by way of an electric hoist over his bed".

He "does not want to die immediately". Practical considerations included the fact that he has yet to finish his memoirs.

In a court document Mr Nicklinson says: "I can't tell you how significant it would be in my life, or how much peace of mind I would have, just knowing that I can determine my own life instead of the state telling me what to do - staying alive regardless of my wishes or how much suffering I have to tolerate until I die of natural causes."

He is seeking two declarations from the court.

One is that in the circumstances of his case - and where an order has been sought from the court in advance - "the common law defence of necessity would be available to a doctor who, acting out of his professional and human duty, assisted him to die".

The other is that the current law of assisted suicide and euthanasia is incompatible with his Article 8 rights of autonomy and dignity .

Mr Bowen said Mr Nicklinson's proposal of a prior sanction by a court "would provide the strongest possible safeguard against abuse".

He said: "It would also provide a safeguard against the concern, often expressed by disabled opponents of legalisation, that a change in the law would lead to a change in people's attitudes to disabled people, who they predict would come under subtle pressure to seek an assisted death through fear of being a 'burden'."

Opposing the action, David Perry QC, for the Ministry of Justice, said Mr Nicklinson's "tragic and very distressing circumstances evoke the deepest sympathy".

But he added: "Notwithstanding the distressing facts of his situation, the defendant submits that the claim for declarations is untenable. The law is well established."

Mr Perry said there was "no defence of necessity to a charge of murder or assisted suicide if a doctor were to terminate, or assist in the termination of, the claimant's life".

He further argued that "the state of the criminal law in this respect does not infringe the right to respect for private life under Article 8 of the Convention".

Counsel told the judges: "By this claim, the claimant is expressly seeking to bring about a change in the law which Parliament has refused to change."

It would be "wrong as a matter of constitutional principle for the courts to seize the initiative from Parliament in this difficult and sensitive area".

"In summary, the defendant submits that any change in the law of the type proposed by the claimant falls squarely within the constitutional domain of Parliament."

During a four-day hearing the judges will also hear argument in a judicial review claim by another locked-in syndrome victim who needs assistance to end his life.

Part of the case brought by the 47-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, but is referred to as Martin, involves a challenge against the Director of Public Prosecution's policy on assisted suicide.

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

£25,000 - £30,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a fantastic opportunity...

Neil Pavier: Commercial Analyst

£50,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you a professionally qualified commercial ...

Loren Hughes: Financial Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Loren Hughes: Are you looking for a new opportunity that wi...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Engineer - Professional Services Firm - Oxford

£21000 - £24000 per annum + 21 days holidays: Ashdown Group: Technical Support...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor