British court gives go ahead to right-to-die case

2012-03-12 13:02

London – A severely disabled British man who wants a doctor to be able to lawfully end his “intolerable” life can proceed with his court case.

The High Court in London ruled today that Tony Nicklinson, who is paralysed from the neck down but whose mental faculties are unaffected, can continue his legal fight to ensure that a doctor who kills him would be spared murder charges.

The Ministry of Justice wanted the case to be struck out, arguing that only Parliament can change the law on murder.

Nicklinson, who suffers from locked-in syndrome following a stroke in 2005, has described his life as “dull, miserable, demeaning, undignified and intolerable”.

The 57-year-old, from Wiltshire in south-west England, is forced to communicate by controlling a computer with eye movements. His paralysis is so severe that killing him would go beyond assisted suicide.

Nicklinson’s wife Jane said there was “huge” public support for his campaign for a doctor to be able to lawfully end his life.

“The only way to relieve Tony’s suffering will be to kill him. There is absolutely nothing else that can be done for him,” she told BBC radio.

Judge William Charles struck out only one part of Nicklinson’s claim today, allowing most of the case to proceed.

The judge said Nicklinson did not have a realistic chance of persuading a court to declare that “existing domestic law and practice fail adequately to regulate the practice of active euthanasia”.

“The reason for this is that the court should not engage in that debate because it is a matter for Parliament,” the judge said, adding that the rest of the case could proceed.

Euthanasia and assisted suicide remain illegal in Britain, but an inquiry recommended in January that lawmakers should consider changing the law to let doctors help some terminally ill people end their lives.

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