Locked-in syndrome patient dies peacefully days after losing euthanasia bid

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 August, 2012, 4:17am


A British man left paralysed but fully conscious and aware of his predicament died yesterday, days after losing a legal bid to end his life of "pure torture", his lawyers and family said.

Tony Nicklinson, 58, who had locked-in syndrome as a result of a stroke he had while on a business trip to Athens in 2005, died of natural causes.

On August 16, High Court judges dismissed his legal plea, unanimously ruling that it would be wrong to depart from a precedent that equated voluntary euthanasia with murder.

After the verdict, Nicklinson broke down in tears, saying he was "devastated" by the decision.

Nicklinson's family said yesterday that he died peacefully at their home in Melksham, western England, following a rapid deterioration in his health after contracting pneumonia. He had also been refusing food since last week.

Wiltshire Police said they and the coroner were not involved in dealing with the death, suggesting it was not suspicious. "He has been visited regularly by the doctor, [who] will sign the death certificate," a spokesman said.

A message from Nicklinson's family on his Twitter account read: "Before he died, he asked us to tweet: 'Goodbye world the time has come, I had some fun'."

Another message read: "Thank you for your support over the years. We would appreciate some privacy at this difficult time. Love, Jane, Lauren and Beth."

In a statement issued by his lawyer after the ruling last week, Nicklinson said: "I am saddened that the law wants to condemn me to a life of increasing indignity and misery."

The three judges had described the case as "deeply moving and tragic", and Nicklinson's predicament as "terrible".

But they agreed that 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 ruled that the current law did not breach human rights and that it was for parliament, not the courts, to decide whether it should be changed.

Nicklinson's wife, Jane, last week described the decision as "one-sided". "You can see from Tony's reaction [that] he's absolutely heartbroken," she said.

At the time, she said they would appeal against the decision. Asked what would happen if the appeal failed, she said: "Tony either has to carry on like this until he dies from natural causes or by starving himself."