Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

Family continue right-to-die fight

Locked-in syndrome sufferer Tony Nicklinson died after losing his legal bid to end his life with a doctor's help

The family of locked-in syndrome sufferer Tony Nicklinson are pressing forward with their right-to-die campaign, after seeking permission to appeal against a High Court ruling.

Mr Nicklinson, 58, died a week after he lost his legal bid to end his life with a doctor's help. The father-of-two had been refusing food and contracted pneumonia after he was left "crestfallen" by the court's decision. He died at his home in Melksham, Wiltshire, surrounded by family on August 22.

They vowed to continue Mr Nicklinson's campaign, and on Saturday confirmed they had lodged papers with the Court of Appeal, which, if granted, would allow them to challenge the High Court decision for his widow, Jane, to take over the right-to-die case on her late husband's behalf. Any verdict would be significant in what is considered by some to be a test case.

Mrs Nicklinson admits it is likely to be a long campaign, fraught with legal technicalities, but said the family is determined to fight Mr Nicklinson's cause.

She said: "This is part of Tony's legacy, we're fighting for him, on his behalf. We really have no idea of when there will be a decision, and even then it will just give us permission to appeal the High Court ruling. But this is a positive step for our campaign. It is a long process, but one we will carry on for as long as we can."

Mr Nicklinson was a keen sportsman until he was paralysed by a stroke while on a business trip to Athens in 2005. Three judges sitting at the High Court in London referred to the "terrible predicament" of Mr Nicklinson and described his case as "deeply moving and tragic".

But Lord Justice Toulson, Mr Justice Royce and Mrs Justice Macur unanimously agreed 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".

The judges also heard that a second applicant known as "Martin" needed assistance to end his life. The judges were told he suffered a massive stroke in August 2008 and wanted to be allowed a "dignified suicide".

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.

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