Huffpost UK uk

Tony Nicklinson, Locked-In Sufferer, Sobs During BBC TV Interview After Losing High Court Right To Die Battle

Posted: Updated:

Locked-in syndrome sufferer Tony Nicklinson has lost his High Court battle for the right to end his life when he chooses.

Following the ruling Mr Nicklinson sobbed in his wheelchair, next to his wife, who described the 58-year-old as "heartbroken" in an interview with the BBC.

Visibly distressed, he could be seen breathing heavily, as tears ran down his face in the emotional interview with the family.

tony nicklinson

His wife wiped away Mr Nicklinson's tears as she told reporters they were "disappointed" with the ruling

Despite his description of his life as "pure torture" and a "living nightmare" which could continue for another 20 years or more, the court ruled that he could not end his life when he chooses with medical help.

Mr Nicklinson, aged 58, from Wiltshire was left paralysed by a stroke while on a business trip to Athens in 2005. He suffers from locked-in syndrome, which means that while his mind works just as it did before the stroke, he can only use muscles that control blinking and vertical eye movements.

Pro-choice campaigners said the High Court decision left Mr Nicklinson "a terrible choice" of either continuing his suffering or starving himself to death.

tony nicklinson

Tony Nicklinson sobbed after the High Court's ruling

Speaking from their home in Melksham Mrs Nicklinson said they would now appeal the decision and hoped they would be able to organise a hearing before the end of the year.

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

tony nicklinson

Mr Nicklinson was visibly distressed by the ruling

After the ruling, Mr Nicklinson said in a statement issued by his lawyer: "I am devastated by the court's decision.

"Although I didn't want to raise my hopes; it happened anyway, because a fantastic amount of work went into my case and 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."


TonyNicklinson
There WILL be an appeal (LN)

However pro-life campaigners welcomed the ruling. Paul Tully, general secretary of SPUC Pro-Life urged Mr Nicklinson's carers to "rise to the challenge of helping them realise their value and overcome their sense of hopelessness.

"We trust that today's judgment will help end the insidious campaign in the British courts to change the law on assisted suicide and euthanasia.

"Those who are sick, vulnerable or disabled need the law to be robust in protecting the inviolability of every human life.

"To legalise killing of those who are suffering would adversely affect many, many people."

tony nicklinson
Tony Nicklinson preparing to give his statement after the ruling. His clear devastation in reaction to the verdict was difficult to watch

A further statement released by Mr Nicklinson confirmed that he planned to instruct his legal team to "go all the way" and launch an appeal against the ruling.

"Judges, like politicians, are happiest when they can avoid confronting the real issues - and this judgment is not an exception to this rule.

"I believe the legal team acting on my behalf is prepared to go all the way with this but, unfortunately for me, it means yet another period of physical discomfort, misery and mental anguish while we find out who controls my life - me or the State."

tony nicklinson

Tony Nicklinson pictured before the stroke, which left him only able to communicate by blinking

Mr Nicklinson had asked London's High Court to rule that a doctor should lawfully be able to end his life without fear of prosecution.

But the judges 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".

Doctors and solicitors who encouraged or assisted another person to commit suicide were "at real risk of prosecution".

Professor John Saunders, chairman of the Royal College of Physicians ethics committee, said: "The Royal College of Physicians does not support a change in the law on assisted dying.

"It remains illegal for doctors to intentionally and deliberately terminate the life of someone who is not terminally ill.

"A survey of RCP fellows and members in 2006 showed that doctors were not in favour of a change in the law to allow them to do this.

"A change in the law would also have severe implications for the way society views disabled people."


TonyNicklinson
180 signatures already - amazing, thank you! please keep signing and tweeting! (LN)

Tony Nicklinson has been tweeting his statement since the verdict, while his family has begun a petition to campaign for his right to die

Refusing the stricken men judicial review, the judges ruled 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".

Mr Nicklinson wanted a declaration that the current law on murder or assisted suicide was incompatible with his right to respect for his private life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. But the judge ruled it would also be wrong to hold that Article 8 afforded a possible defence to murder.

That would go beyond what the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg had decided and be inconsistent with the judgments of Britain's highest court, the House of Lords - now the Supreme Court.

ON THE BLOG: 'Let Our Dad Die' - One Family's Fight for Assisted Dying

The judge said: "To do as Tony wants, the court would be making a major change in the law.

"To do as Martin wants, the court would be compelling the DPP to go beyond his established legal role.

"These are not things which the court should do. It is not for the court to decide whether the law about assisted dying should be changed and, if so, what safeguards should be put in place.

"Under our system of government these are matters for Parliament to decide, representing society as a whole, after parliamentary scrutiny, and not for the court on the facts of an individual case or cases."

Mr Justice Royce agreed, saying: "No-one could fail to be deeply moved by the terrible predicament faced by these men struck down in their prime and facing a future bereft of hope.

"Each case gives rise to most profound ethical, moral, religious and social issues.

"Some will say the judges must step in to change the law. Some will be sorely tempted to do so.

"But the short answer is that to do so here would be to usurp the function of Parliament in this classically sensitive area.

"Any change would need the most carefully structured safeguards which only Parliament can deliver."

Mrs Justice Macur also ruled that the applications by both men must fail.

She said the "dire physical and emotional predicament facing Tony and Martin and their families may intensify any tribunal's unease".

But the issues raised by their cases "are conspicuously matters which must be adjudicated upon by Parliament and not judges or the DPP as unelected officers of state".

tony nicklinson

Tony Nicklinson with his wife. He and his family were the subject of Channel 4 documentary series Dispatches

In a statement released by his lawyer, "Martin" said he felt "even more angry and frustrated" following the judgment.

"I feel even more angry and frustrated now having had this court tell me that I cannot receive professional help to take control of how I might end my own life," he said.

"My life following my stroke is undignified, distressing and intolerable.

"I wish to be able to exercise the freedom which everyone else would have - to decide how to end this constant tortuous situation."
"Martin" requires constant care and is entirely dependent upon others for every aspect of his life.

The bloodclot at the bottom of his skull, which is believed to have caused the stroke "Martin" suffered, is thought to have formed following a sports injury sustained when he was 18.

Richard Stein, from Leigh Day & Co, who represented "Martin", said: "We are extremely disappointed by this judgment.

"We will be discussing with our client the options open to him and whether to appeal to the Court of Appeal in a bid to allow him to take control of what is, for any able-bodied person, a basic human right - to decide how to live and ultimately how to die with dignity."