'Locked-in' stroke victim asks for ruling on mercy killing

Tony Nicklinson is a man who once loved the sound of his own voice. His wife describes him as "very opinionated" and his two daughters say he was never happier than when he was quizzing them over the suitability of their boyfriends.

But five years ago a paralysing stroke left Mr Nicklinson locked inside his body, able only to communicate by moving his eyes and head.

Today he wants the right to die, but without exposing his wife or daughters to prosecution for murder.

In a High Court test case, to be heard later this year, his family will challenge Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), over his policy on "mercy killings".

The Nicklinson case goes beyond the debate about assisted suicide because Mr Nicklinson, a former rugby player and corporate manager, cannot perform the final physical act of taking his own life.

In a heart-felt statement read by his wife, Jane, Mr Nicklinson made it very clear yesterday why he had come to his decision. "I am a 56-year-old man who suffered a catastrophic stroke in June 2005 whilst on a business trip to Athens, Greece. It left me paralysed below the neck and unable to speak. I need help in almost every aspect of my life. I cannot scratch if I itch. I cannot pick my nose if it is blocked and I can only eat if I am fed like a baby."

Mr Nicklinson, from Melksham in Wiltshire, complains that his condition means he is stripped of his privacy and dignity. And he wishes the Greek doctors who treated him for his stroke had not saved his life. "If I had my time again, and knew then what I know now, I would have not called the ambulance but let nature take its course."

Speaking to The Independent, Jane Nicklinson described the torment that the family has endured. "He has got his own special bed and sits in his chair," says Mrs Nicklinson. "In the morning he goes on the computer and in the afternoon and evening he watches television. He used to go into the garden, but if a fly lands on him he can't brush it off him so he stays inside."

The family are not surprised by his decision. Mrs Nicklinson said: "Very early on he said he did not want to live like this but he said he would give it time because people said he may adapt – but he has given it a go for five years. Right from the day it happened I knew he would come to this decision because of the kind of person he is."

Now Mrs Nicklinson wants clarity in the law. "He realises that if I help him to die I could be done for murder and there is no way he would allow me to do that no matter how much pain and suffering he is going through. I'm not that brave and I have got my girls to think of."

In a letter to the DPP, Saimo Chahal of Bindmans, has asked for written guidance. "Mr and Mrs Nicklinson wish to know whether Mrs Nicklinson will be prosecuted for murder in the event that she were to assist her husband to end his life by taking active steps. There is, however, no guidance available setting out what factors you consider relevant in deciding whether it is in the public interest to bring a prosecution for murder in cases of 'mercy-killing' or euthanasia."

The family hopes the case will build on the guidance on assisted suicide issued after Debbie Purdy, who suffers from MS, won her legal challenge in the House of Lords.

If the law can't protect Mrs Nicklinson from prosecution she says she will consider other options, including the possibility of withdrawing hydration and nutrition or travelling to Switzerland. "We have found a GP who is sympathetic and will help with pain and suffering but of course no one will tell you how far they can do until the actual time.

"He [Mr Nicklinson] doesn't want to go to Switzerland. When the time comes he wants to be in his own home with people who care about him."

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Sport
Gabriel Agbonlahor, Alexis Sanchez, Alan Pardew and Graziano Pelle
footballAfter QPR draw, follow Villa vs Arsenal, Newcastle vs Hull and Swansea vs Southampton
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... with this review
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
New Articles
i100
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
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

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam