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
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Belong: Volunteer Mentor for Offenders

This is a volunteer role with paid expenses : Belong: Seeking volunteers who c...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Manager

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Marketing Manager is ...

Recruitment Genius: Receptionists - Prestige Brand

£6 - £7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's leading Motor Re...

Recruitment Genius: Admin Assistant

£12000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An admin assistant is required ...

Day In a Page

Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests