British locked-in syndrome sufferer dies

Wed, Aug 22, 2012, 01:00

Locked-in syndrome sufferer Tony Nicklinson, who last week lost his court battle for the legal right to end his life when he chooses with a doctor’s help, died peacefully at home today. He was 58.

His family said the father-of-two died at home in Melksham, Wiltshire, from natural causes. Wiltshire Police confirmed the force would not be investigating Mr Nicklinson’s death.

The married father-of-two was left paralysed by a catastrophic stroke while on a business trip to Athens in 2005.

A tweet posted on Mr Nicklinson’s profile this morning, which is regularly updated by members of his family on his behalf, read: “You may already know, my Dad died peacefully this morning of natural causes. He was 58.”

A second post added: “Before he died, he asked us to tweet: ‘Goodbye world the time has come, I had some fun’.” A third post, attributed to his wife, Jane, and grown-up children Lauren and Beth, said: “Thank you for your support over the years. We would appreciate some privacy at this difficult time.”

A Wiltshire Police spokesman said the force would not be investigating Mr Nicklinson’s death.

“Police are not involved at all. We can confirm he passed away and it is not a matter for Wiltshire Police,” he said.

“His death certificate has been signed by a doctor, so it is not a matter for Wiltshire Police or the coroner.” In a brief statement Bindmans LLP said Mr Nicklinson died this morning at home.

“This is to notify you of the sad death of Tony Nicklinson at approximately 10am this morning,” the law firm said.

The brief statement also asked for the family’s privacy to be respected. No further details were issued about the circumstances of Mr Nicklinson’s death.

Last week following the legal ruling, Mr Nicklinson’s wife, Jane - standing by her weeping husband’s side - described the decision as “one-sided”.

She said: “You can see from Tony’s reaction he’s absolutely heartbroken.” They said they intended to appeal against the decision.

Mr Nicklinson’s daughter Lauren said last week that the family would keep fighting to allow her father to die “a pain-free and peaceful death”.

“The alternative is starvation,” she said.

“Why should he have to starve himself to death when he could go (die) in a safe home with people that love him?

“To think that he might have to waste away and starve himself to death is horrific and it makes me feel quite ill, to be honest.” She rejected the argument of pro-life campaigners, saying that her father had a life only in the biological sense of the word.

“Life should not be measured on the quantity, it should be the quality of life,” she said.

“Dad would rather live 51 years really happy than 90 years completely miserable.

“Dad hasn’t got a life — his life consists of being washed by strangers, undignified moments watching the world go by around him.

“Life should be about quality and happiness, not just for the sake of it.” A second victim of locked-in syndrome, referred to as “Martin” (47) who cannot be identified, said through his lawyers that he now felt “even more frustrated and angry” after also losing his challenge to the legal ban on assisted dying.

Three judges sitting in London referred to the “terrible predicament” of Mr Nicklinson and Martin and described their cases as “deeply moving and tragic”.

Mr Nicklinson (58) from Melksham, Wiltshire, was left paralysed by a catastrophic stroke while on a business trip to Athens in 2005.

The court heard that he had been told his existence of “pure torture” could continue — if a doctor could not help end it — for another 20 years or more.

Martin suffered a massive stroke in August 2008, is unable to speak and virtually unable to move. He wanted to be allowed a “dignified suicide”.

But Lord Justice Toulson, Mr Justice Royce and Mrs Justice Macur, while expressing deep sympathy for their plight, unanimously agreed that it would be wrong for the court to depart from the long-established legal position that “voluntary euthanasia is murder, however understandable the motives may be”.

They said doctors and solicitors who encouraged or assisted another person to commit suicide were “at real risk of prosecution”.

Refusing the stricken men judicial review, they agreed that the current law did not breach human rights and it was for Parliament, not the courts, to decide whether it should be changed.

Any changes would need “the most carefully structured safeguards which only Parliament can deliver”.

After the ruling, Mr Nicklinson said in a statement issued by his solicitors, Bindmans LLP: “I am devastated by the court’s decision.

“I am saddened that the law wants to condemn me to a life of increasing indignity and misery.” Asked what would happen if the  appeal fails, his wife said: “Tony either has to carry on like this until he dies from natural causes or by starving himself.”

She said: “All the points that we put forward have just really been ignored, it seems.

“We always knew it was a big ask but we always hoped that the judges would see sense, but clearly they haven’t.”

PA