Opinion Former Article

BHA: Mentally competent adults should be able to choose to end their lives

Tony Nicklinson has lost his High Court case to allow doctors to end his life without risk of prosecution.  Mr Nicklinson, who is 58, suffered a catastrophic stroke in 2005 which left him with locked-in syndrome, which means that he is paralysed from the neck down. 

He communicates by blinking, and has described his life since the stroke as a ‘living nightmare’.  He says that he is ‘devastated’ by the court’s decision, and that ‘I am saddened that the law wants to condemn me to a life of increasing indignity and misery.’  Mr Nicklinson also said that he would appeal against the decision.  Another man, known as Martin, who is 47 and suffering from locked in syndrome, also lost his case to end his life with help from doctors.

The British Humanist Association (BHA) is disappointed at this decision.

Andrew Copson BHA Chief Executive, commented ‘We are deeply disappointed by this news for Tony. We fully supported the legal case to establish the right to have a doctor lawfully end his life.

‘Mentally competent adults should be able to make decisions about their lives, as long as they do not result in harm to others.  In cases where a patient is suffering incurably, is permanently incapacitated, and has made a clear and informed decision to end their life but is unable to do so independently, the law should allow a doctor to intervene.  We also believe that there is an urgent need for Parliament to legislate on the matter, and to introduce a law which legalises assisted dying while also imposing safeguards to protect the vulnerable.

‘We will continue to support Tony as he appeals this decision and will also continue to call for an ethical and humane law on assisted dying that would protect the vulnerable, but also allow mentally competent adults the right to die with dignity in a time and manner of their own choosing.’

Notes

For further comment or information contact Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs at pavan@humanism.org.uk or on 0773 843 5059.

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of ethically concerned, non-religious people in the UK. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief, and for a secular state

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