Locked-in syndrome sufferer Tony Nicklinson dies of pneumonia less than a week after losing a legal challenge for the right to end his life


John Hall
Wednesday 22 August 2012 19:21
Tony Nicklinson's wife Jane comforts him as he reacts as a statement is read out regarding the decision made by High Court judges not to allow him to ask a doctor to end his life
Tony Nicklinson's wife Jane comforts him as he reacts as a statement is read out regarding the decision made by High Court judges not to allow him to ask a doctor to end his life

Tony Nicklinson, the man with locked-in syndrome who fought for the right for doctors to legally end his life, has died.

The 58-year-old passed away at 10am this morning at his Wiltshire home, less than a week after losing a legal challenge for the right to end the life he described as “pure torture”. He was left paralysed following a stroke in 2005.

Family solicitor Saimo Chahal said: "I am extremely sad to tell you that I received a call at 10.45am from Jane Nicklinson to inform me that her husband Tony died peacefully at home at about 10am this morning.

"Jane told me that Tony went rapidly downhill over last weekend, having contracted pneumonia.

"He had made an advanced directive in 2004 refusing any life-sustaining treatment and also refused food from last week.

"Jane said that, after Tony received the draft judgement on August 12 refusing his claim, the fight seemed to go out of him.

Mr Nicklinson had said he was “devastated and heartbroken” by the verdict at the High Court last Thursday, which ruled out the possibility of a doctor helping him to die.

Although his condition was known to be deteriorating, Mr Nicklinson’s death was unexpected as he had planned to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights next year.

Although Mr Nicklinson’s death ends his suffering, it is thought he desperately wanted to win the legal battle before dying in order to set a precedent which could help others suffering with lock-in syndrome.

In a brief statement, law firm Bindmans LLP said: “This is to notify you of the sad death of Tony Nicklinson at approximately 10am this morning.”

The lawyers did not give any indication of the cause of Mr Nicklinson's death, although a message posted on his Twitter page this morning, which is regularly updated by members of his family on his behalf, read: “You may already know, my Dad died peacefully this morning of natural causes. He was 58.”

A second post added: “Before he died, he asked us to tweet: 'Goodbye world the time has come, I had some fun'.”

A third post, attributed to his wife, Jane, and adult children Lauren and Beth, said: “Thank you for your support over the years. We would appreciate some privacy at this difficult time.”

Later Beth, writing on her personal Twitter profile, paid tribute to her late father.

She posted: "RIP TonyNicklinson. Couldn't have asked for a better dad, so strong. You are now at peace, we will be fine. I love you xxx"

Wiltshire Police confirmed the force would not be investigating Mr Nicklinson's death.

A spokesman for the force said: “Police are not involved at all. We can confirm he passed away and it is not a matter for Wiltshire Police...His death certificate has been signed by a doctor, so it is not a matter for Wiltshire Police or the coroner.”

Three judges sitting in London last Thursday referred to the “terrible predicament” of Mr Nicklinson.

Lord Justice Toulson, Mr Justice Royce and Mrs Justice Macur, while expressing deep sympathy for the plight of Mr Nicklinson and another locked-in sufferer, unanimously agreed that it would be wrong for the court to depart from the long-established legal position that “voluntary euthanasia is murder, however understandable the motives may be”.

They said doctors and solicitors who encouraged or assisted another person to commit suicide were “at real risk of prosecution”.

They agreed that the current law did not breach human rights and it was for Parliament, not the courts, to decide whether it should be changed.

Any changes would need “the most carefully structured safeguards which only Parliament can deliver”.

After the ruling, Mr Nicklinson's wife, Jane - standing by her weeping husband's side - described the decision as "one-sided".

She said: "You can see from Tony's reaction he's absolutely heartbroken."

They said they intended to appeal against the decision.

Mr Nicklinson's daughter Lauren said last week that the family would keep fighting to allow her father to die "a pain-free and peaceful death".

"The alternative is starvation," she said.

"Why should he have to starve himself to death when he could go (die) in a safe home with people that love him?

"To think that he might have to waste away and starve himself to death is horrific and it makes me feel quite ill, to be honest."

She rejected the argument of pro-life campaigners, saying that her father had a life only in the biological sense of the word.

"Life should not be measured on the quantity, it should be the quality of life," she said.

"Dad would rather live 51 years really happy than 90 years completely miserable.

"Dad hasn't got a life - his life consists of being washed by strangers, undignified moments watching the world go by around him.

"Life should be about quality and happiness, not just for the sake of it."

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