Tony Nicklinson: 'Perhaps I’ll say goodbye on Twitter'

He has suffered a catastrophic stroke leaving him with locked-in syndrome, but the internet is helping Tony Nicklinson fight for a dignified death, he tells Nina Lakhani

A severely disabled man with locked-in syndrome will this week endeavour to change euthanasia laws by convincing three High Court judges that any doctor who helps him to die should not face criminal charges.

In a landmark case Tony Nicklinson is asking the court to extend the common law of ‘necessity’ to assisted suicide and murder so that he can be medically helped to die without the doctor risking prosecution.

Mr Nicklinson, 58, who has been able to move only his eyelids since suffering a catastrophic stroke in 2005, last night told The Independent that being able to choose when to die was his most fundamental human right.

Mr Nicklinson said he was “relishing” the battle but had “despaired” at the slowness of the legal challenge as he was simply seeking the same right to die that able bodied people were able to exercise independently.

The leading human rights lawyer Saimo Chahal, will argue that the government is in breach of Mr Nicklinson’s Article 8 right to ‘privacy, dignity and autonomy’, a right he cannot exercise independently because of severe disability.

In an interview conducted by email Mr Nicklinson said: “I do believe that it is a person's first human right to be able to determine when, where and how to end his own life. All this talk about a person's life being ‘a gift from god and only he can decide when a person's life can end’ is utter rubbish.

“I don't really care if you believe in god, Santa or the tooth fairy; it is okay up to a point but when believers insist that their way is the only way I get angry. What if you believe in a different faith or no faith? I object to being told what I can and cannot do by a faith I don't believe in (for the record I am an atheist). I feel that I am denied my most basic human right; I object to society telling me that I must live until I die of natural causes and I will do all I can to restore those rights.”

In a remarkable twist, one of the doctors who helped save Mr Nicklinson’s life in Athens in 2005 has expressed shock at his ongoing plight.

Speaking on tonight’s Dispatches programme, “Let our Dad Die”, neurologist Dr Stelios Doris will say: “Death is more normal than to stay alive in this condition. So when I was informed that he was still alive I was surprised and sad also. I wouldn’t like for even for my worst enemy to stay alive in this condition for so many years. “

He adds: “I think that we owe him. He’s paying for our mistakes in a way… We have not done medical mistakes but it’s a mistake that he survived.”

Mr Nicklinson said: “It's good that my situation for which, as part of the team that saved me he must take some responsibility, has made him think… I am sure that the quality of the life saved will feature more in the debate about assisted dying as more people are ‘victims’ of the life-at-all-costs policy. I have suggested from the beginning that doctors have no choice but to save a life but the person so saved should, after a reasonable period of time be given the option of assisted dying.”

He added: “The public appear to want something done to match the huge advances made by medical science; the politicians in Westminster are too scared of offending the church and other vested interests.”

Mr Nicklinson believes that his case has “rattled” religious and anti-euthanasia campaigners, who fear a victory for him would signal a slippery slope for elderly and disabled people, because it does not seek to fundamentally change the murder or suicide laws.

Instead, lawyers will argue that anyone who helps Mr Nicklinson die should be able to plead necessity as a defence because the alternative – forcing him to stay alive - is worse. Judges have developed common law over hundreds of years and so are perfectly entitled to extend it further as they see legally fit.

Talking to The Independent his wife Jane Nicklinson accused those opposed of “scaremongering” and insisted that her husband’s fight to die would not cascade into elderly people being forced to accept early death. 

Mr Nicklinson last week became a Twitter sensation after being encouraged by his family to use the social networking site to express his strong opinions on life, death, politics and rugby, something he has desperately missed since the stroke left him physically incapable but mentally sharp.  

He is “amazed” and “flattered” at the response, having attracted 13,000 followers in four days.

“It has made me feel more connected to the world at large but even though it is an interesting exercise in human interaction, I will still know what to do when the time comes. In other words, being one of the twitterati is insufficient to make me change my mind [about dying]. Perhaps I'll be the first person to say goodbye on Twitter.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Sport
Robin van Persie leaves the field at the King Power Stadium last Sunday
football
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch as John Watson and Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock
tv

Co-creator Mark Gatiss dropped some very intriguing hints ahead of the BBC drama's return next year

News
In this photo illustration, the Twitter logo and hashtag '#Ring!' is displayed on a mobile device as the company announced its initial public offering and debut on the New York Stock Exchange on November 7, 2013 in London, England. Twitter went public on the NYSE opening at USD 26 per share, valuing the company's worth at an estimated USD 18 billion.
news

News
people

London 'needs affordable housing'

Arts and Entertainment
music Band accidentally drops four-letter description at concert
Life and Style
tech
News
peopleIan Thorpe addresses Ricky Martin rumours
Arts and Entertainment
'Africa' will be Angelina Jolie's fifth film as a director
film

Mr and Mrs Smith star admits she's 'never been comfortable on-screen'

Arts and Entertainment
Australia singer Iggy Azalea has been attacked by Eminem in a new rap
music

Singer was ordered not to 'blow her rape whistle' in song 'Vegas'

Extras
indybest
News
Myleene Klass
people
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

Recruitment Genius: Visitor Centre - Business Manager

£50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: For the first time in its 1,000 year his...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Commercial Property Surveyor

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading firms of Cha...

Recruitment Genius: Female Companions / Personal Assistants - Perm and Bank

£9 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: We are currently recruiting for a care ...

Recruitment Genius: Groundworker

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Ground-worker required for an e...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines