Tony Nicklinson, who asked the High Court to grant his wife or a doctor the freedom to end his life has died days after the verdict which refused his petition.
And already the pro-euthanasia vultures are circling.
Mr Nicklinson had been refusing food for up to seven days after learning the outcome of his appeal last week. He developed pneumonia and deteriorated rapidly. In 2004 Mr Nicklinson issued an advanced directive refusing any life sustaining treatment should he fall ill.
Paradoxically, Mr Nicklinson’s wife said that the fight had gone out of him after the verdict. He had in a sense lost the will to live. When he died, around 10am on Wednesday morning, his wife, daughters Lauren and Beth and his sister Ginny were by his side.
Nicklinson developed ‘locked-in’ syndrome after a stroke. He wanted the court to agree to his request for an assisted suicide, saying that he had been condemned to a life which was ‘worse than death’.
Other victims of locked in syndrome have adopted a more positive outlook despite sympathy for the points Tony Nicklinson made in Court. Michael and Wendy Cubiss, for example, bravely told the BBC that there are some positive factors. And the maxim remains that where there is life there is hope. No one can deny the possibility of a miracle.
Last week, three High Court judges ruled that they did not have the power to grant Mr Nicklinson’s request for a doctor to be given immunity from prosecution for murder by giving him a lethal dose of painkillers. It would be wrong, they said, for the court to depart from the long-established legal position that ‘voluntary euthanasia is murder, however understandable the motives may be’. Lord Justice Toulson said that it was not the place of the courts to ‘usurp the function of Parliament’.
Euthanasia campaigners have mounted a sustained campaign over many years with the result that MPs and peers have debated euthanasia on a number of occasions. The present case will provide a useful handle for them to revisit the matter. Labour peer Lord Joffe has already aired his view that Tony Nicklinson’s ‘incredible courage’ will ‘eventually lead to a change in the law’. The persistent euthanasia campaigner, who has previously presented assisted suicide bills, said the law needs to be changed and ‘MPs are not listening to society’.
However, each time the matter has been debated in Parliament legislators have agreed with disability rights campaigners that there would be little or no protection for the elderly and vulnerable if the law changed to satisfy a small number of very hard and very tragic cases. They have not done so out of cowardice, as Mr Nicklinson alleged, but out of deep consideration for the wider implications.
Stephen Green, National Director of ChristianVoice, said today: ‘We had the greatest sympathy for Tony Nicklinson’s predicament but we welcomed the court verdict. His terrible ordeal is now at an end. It is only Almighty God who has the right to create and take life. In the end Mr Nicklinson has had his wish granted by a higher authority than any on this earth.’
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