It is impossible not to be moved by the details of Tony Nicklinson's life, as revealed in the High Court this week. Paralysed by a stroke in 2005, the former businessman is locked inside his malfunctioning body and able to communicate only by blinking. With no hope of release, he wants to take his own life – but is too disabled to do so.
Mr Nicklinson is asking two things of the court. He wants any doctor who enables him to die to be able to cite the common-law defence of "necessity" if subsequently arrested. And he wants the law forbidding assisted suicide declared incompatible with his rights of autonomy and dignity under the European Convention of Human Rights.
Few lawyers expect him to succeed. But concern at the dangers of a new precedent must come second to the inhumanity of condemning a person to so intolerable an existence. Mr Nicklinson must be allowed to make his choice.
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