A question of murder: Right-to-die case gets green light

Ministers argue only parliament can decide on right-to-die issues
Ministers argue only parliament can decide on right-to-die issues

By Alex Stevenson

A paralysed man's bid to end his life lawfully in the UK will have a full hearing in court, Mr Justice Charles has ruled.

The high court judge's ruling is a setback for the Ministry of Justice, which had argued that only parliament should be able to rule on whether a life can be deliberately taken.

Fifty-eight-year-old Tony Nicklinson from Wiltshire, a sufferer of 'locked-in syndrome' who can only communicate by blinking after suffering a stroke in 2005, wants to end what he calls his "dull, miserable, demeaning, undignified and intolerable" life.


"I'm delighted that the issues surrounding assisted dying are to be aired in court," Mr Nicklinson's wife Jane said in a statement.

"Politicians and others can hardly complain with the courts providing the forum for debate if the politicians continue to ignore one of the most important topics facing our society today.

"It's no longer acceptable for 21st century medicine to be governed by 20th century attitudes to death."

Mr Nicklinson cannot travel to euthanasia clinic Dignitas in Switzerland as they require the patient to administer their own fatal drugs - and he is not capable of doing so.

Lawyers acting on his behalf have requested that a 'necessity' defence be created for doctors facing a murder charge.

Campaigners have argued the law has not kept up with medical advances which mean that those in Mr Nicklinson's position stay alive.

He is fully conscious but regrets seeking to stay alive when he suffered the stroke. Mrs Nicklinson told the Today programme earlier: "He says now if he had know what life would be like for him now, he would have just laid down and died and would not have called for help."

Independent crossbencher Ilora Finlay suggested that doctors and lawyers understood the current legal position, however.

"If the patient refuses consent and somebody, such as this, refuses a treatment, there is still a duty of care," she said.

"They must be looked after and kept comfortable while they’re dying from their underlying condition."

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