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British man loses high court battle to end his life

Tony Nicklinson, who is paralysed from the neck down, has described his life as “pure torture” and wept as the verdict was announced.

Tony Nicklinson with his wife Jane (left) and daughters Beth (right) and Lauren. He says he is
Tony Nicklinson with his wife Jane (left) and daughters Beth (right) and Lauren. He says he is "devastated and heartbroken" after losing his High Court battle.
Image: Emma Hallett/PA Wire/Press Association Images

A BRITISH MAN who is paralysed from the neck down has lost his high court battle to end his life of “pure torture” with the help of a doctor.

Tony Nicklinson, who suffers from locked-in syndrome, which has left his body paralysed but his mental faculties intact, wept as the verdict was announced.

“You can see from Tony’s reaction he’s absolutely heartbroken,” said his wife Jane, vowing to continue with their legal fight to ensure that any doctor who helped her 58-year-old husband die would not face a murder charge.


Euthanasia and assisted suicide remain illegal in Britain, but an inquiry recommended in January that lawmakers should consider changing the law to let doctors help some terminally ill people end their lives.

A second locked-in syndrome sufferer, who cannot be identified and was referred to in court as “Martin”, also lost his challenge to Britain’s ban on assisted dying.

Three judges sitting in London described the two cases as “deeply moving and tragic”.

But they unanimously agreed that it would be wrong for the court to depart from Britain’s long-held legal principle that voluntary euthanasia is a form of murder.

It should be up to parliament to decide whether the law should be changed, the judges added.

‘A life of increasing indignity and misery’

In a statement issued by his lawyer, Nicklinson said: “I am devastated by the court’s decision.

“I thought that if the court saw me as I am, utterly miserable with my life, powerless to do anything about it because of my disability, then the judges would accept my reasoning that I do not want to carry on and should be able to have a dignified death.

“I am saddened that the law wants to condemn me to a life of increasing indignity and misery.”

The Nicklinsons have said they will appeal against the decision and hope there will be a new hearing before the end of the year.

Asked what would happen if the appeal fails, Jane Nicklinson said: “Tony either has to carry on like this until he dies from natural causes or by starving himself.”

There is no cure or treatment for locked-in syndrome.

Nicklinson was left paralysed by a stroke in 2005. He is forced to communicate by controlling a computer with eye movements, and his paralysis is so severe that killing him would go beyond assisted suicide.

- © AFP, 2012

Read: A “strong case” for offering assisted death to terminally ill, says UK report

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