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.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
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