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Paralysed stroke victim’s legal bid over right to die

A man paralysed from the neck down who can only use his head and eyes to communicate has launched a legal challenge to clarify the law on so-called mercy killing.

Tony Nicklinson (56) from Melksham, near Chippenham, in Wiltshire, said he wishes doctors had never saved his life after he suffered a catastrophic stroke in June 2005.

He suffers from “locked-in syndrome”, and is only able to communicate using a Perspex board and letters, looking, blinking and nodding to spell out words.

And he says he wants to die rather than “dribble his way into old age”.

Mr Nicklinson's solicitor, Saimo Chahal, of Bindmans, issued proceedings in the High Court yesterday seeking a Judicial Review from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Keir Starmer.

His legal team wants guidance on whether it is always in the public interest to prosecute in cases of “consensual killing”.

Mr Nicklinson, who is unable to end his own life without direct assistance, believes his wife faces prosecution for murder and a mandatory life sentence if she helps him to die.

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His lawyers will argue the law of murder constitutes a disproportionate interference with his right to personal autonomy under Article 8 (right to private life) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

In a witness statement, Mr Nicklinson said: “I am a 56-year-old man who suffered a catastrophic stroke in June 2005 whilst on a business trip to Athens, Greece.

“It left me paralysed below the neck and unable to speak. I need help in almost every aspect of my life. I cannot scratch if I itch. I cannot pick my nose if it is blocked and I can only eat if I am fed like a baby — only I won't grow out of it, unlike a baby.

“I have no privacy or dignity left. I am washed, dressed and put to bed by carers who are, after all, still strangers. I am fed-up with my life and don't want to spend the next 20 years or so like this.

“Am I grateful that Athens doctors saved my life? No, I am not. If I had my time again and knew then what I know now, I would have not called the ambulance, but let nature take its course.”

His wife Jane (54) said: “The fact that Tony is unable to speak is hideous. Rugby is his passion and he was always the life and soul of the party so the fact that it is so difficult to communicate is extremely frustrating.

“He does not feel he has any quality of life and wants the right which everyone else has to decide when to end it. He will not ask me to help him, or anyone else to help him, if he thinks they will be prosecuted for murder.”

Ms Chahal said: “The law of murder is inflexible and the Law Commission was right when, in 2006, it recommended that the law should be reviewed particularly in the context of mercy killing. The law in this area needs to be reviewed.”

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