Only a few days after his plea for euthanasia was denied by England’s High Court, locked-in patient Tony Nicklinson has died of natural causes. His family issued his last Tweet: “Goodbye world, the time has come. I had some fun.” (See other stories about his case here.)
Mr Nicklinson had become a cause celebre for euthanasia and assisted suicide lobby. Completely paralysed except for his head and unable to speak, he communicated through a computer screen. He emphasised that his life was not worth living. Since it was impossible for him to end it all except by starving himself to death he pleaded for someone to be authorised to kill him. But the judges, though sympathetic to his plight, declared that euthanasia was still illegal, in Europe and the UK. In the words of Justice Toulson:
“I conclude that it would be wrong for this court to hold that article 8 [of the European Convention on Human Rights] requires voluntary euthanasia to afford a possible defence to murder. To do so would be to go far beyond anything which the Strasbourg court has said, would be inconsistent with the judgments of the House of Lords and the Strasbourg court in Pretty, and would be to usurp the proper role of Parliament.”
After the judgement, "the fight seemed to go out of him", his family said. He declined to eat and to take antibiotics for pneumonia.
Academics interviewed by the London Telegraph predicted that a brief spike in support for the dying-with-dignity campaign after Mr Nicklinson’s death would not lead to legislative change. MPs were reluctant to tackle such a divisive topic. Dr John Troyer, from the University of Bath's Centre for Death and Society said the modern welfare state was "about keeping everyone alive", adding: "You rarely, if ever, hear any member of the Government saying, 'Right, now we're going to talk about how everyone's going to die'”.
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