Stroke victim will go to Dignitas to die unless Britain changes assisted suicide law

December 17, 2010 | by | 1 Comment

A father-of-two with ”locked in” syndrome says he will go to Swiss clinic Dignitas to die – unless the British Government changes the law on assisted suicide.

Stroke victim will go to Dignitas to die unless Britain changes assisted suicide law

Civil engineer Tony Nicklinson, 56, lost all movement in his body from the neck down after suffering a sudden catastrophic stroke on a business trip to Greece in 2005.

He is confined to a wheelchair and can only communicate through moving his head and eyes.

Mr Nicklinson wants wife Jane, 55, to help him in a ‘mercy killing’ but fears she could be prosecuted if she does.

He has vowed to fly out to the assisted dying group Dignitas in Switzerland if a government review chaired by Lord Falconer fails to bring a change in the law.

Mr and Mrs Nicklinson both gave evidence before the Commission on Assisted Dying on Tuesday (14/12).

Jane, a former nurse, said: ”He is determined to die and has been talking about it for a while now – he won’t change his mind.

”In an ideal world I would be able to give him a sedative – or a doctor give him a lethal dose.

”But we have been in talks with Dignitas and Tony has said if we fail with this then we will go to there.”

Rugby fanatic Tony was en-route to Athens with business colleagues when he suffered the stroke in June 2005.

Jane, a former nurse, rushed from their home in Dubai to the Greek hospital where Tony lay in a coma.

It took the couple more than two months to move back to the Britain, where they settled in Melksham, Wilts., with daughter’s Beth, 21, and Lauren, 23.

But Tony had gone from a ”larger than life” character to a wheelchair-bound invalid.

The only way he can communicate to his family is via a perspex board and letters – looking, blinking and nodding to spell out words – and he cannot move his limbs.

He eventually pleaded with Jane, spelling out: ”Help me to die”.

She said: ”When we came back to Britain it was a little while before he realised that he wouldn’t be getting better.

”He asked me to help him to die. We told him to wait a few years to see if he got used to it.

”But his mind is made up now. Beth and Lauren are aware and are fully behind their dad.

”Anyone who knew what Tony was like before would understand. He was the life and soul of the party – a big rugby-playing alpha male.

”He played for his local rugby team in Kent and loves watching any match when it’s on television.

”But now he spends around ten hours in bed each day and rarely leaves the house.

”If he could speak, then things would be completely different but I know he won’t change his mind now.”

The couple launched a legal bid earlier this year try and clarify the law on mercy killings and are trying to fund a judicial review of the law.

Tony is unable to end his own life without direct assistance and he believes his wife could face prosecution for murder and a mandatory life sentence if she helps him to die.

The Commission on Assisted Dying, chaired by Lord Falconer, is considering what system, if any, should exist to allow people to be assisted to die.

The inquiry runs until September 2011.

Jane told the independent inquiry this week that her husband was someone who used to love talking but now cried with frustration at the ”sheer agony” of being unable to speak.

A written statement from Mr Nicklinson called for a new law to ”reinstate” the right of ”self determination” with a test for competence for those who need help to die.

His statement said: ”We have a law which condemns me and others like me to a life of misery – makes my wife or anybody else a murderer for simply carrying out my wishes – puts people in jail for up to 14 years for helping someone to commit suicide, makes me wish for a fatal condition, makes me consider starvation as a way out.

”Tell me just what is compassionate about that?”

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  1. RHN Press says:

    Media Statement from the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability

    “The RHN regularly works with people experiencing Locked-in syndrome and empathises with Mr Nicklinson immensely. Each person so affected has to come to terms with their own situation, it is impossible to overstate the challenges that presents. However, it is important that the individuals concerned and their families understand that, with the right treatment and technology, those with Locked in Syndrome can improve their quality of life.

    We know, from patients that come into the RHN that advanced technology can help people overcome their disability and regain the ability to communicate. For example, our Eyegaze technology accurately tracks the movement of the eyeball to rapidly spell out words on a screen, which can be coupled to a text-to-speech synthesizer to giving the Locked-in patient a ‘voice’. Everyone has the right to the best possible quality of life whatever their ability and we must do all we can to give people the right support.”

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