Tony Nicklinson was a British Man who suffered from a stroke in 2005, and since then had suffered with locked-in syndrome aged 51. He was unable to move or communicate with any part of his body, other than his eyes. However, like you and me, he was completely awake and aware.
In 2010, Tony’s legal team sought guidance about assisted suicide as British law states anyone who assists suicide will be prosecuted. His case reached the High Court in March 2012 and on 12 August 2012 Tony was denied his right to die.
Tony was the vice-chairman of the Arabian Gulf Rugby Football Union before his stroke and was described as an outgoing and confident person with a busy and active social and family life. He was a husband and father of two.
We can communicate with others, confide in them, share our adventures and explore the world. In his High Court case, Tony described his life as ‘dull, miserable, demeaning, undignified and intolerable’. Can you imagine being stripped of your dignity? Not being able to feed yourself, wash yourself, or scratch an itch? Much like a baby, except the inability to grow out of it.
Please excuse the comparison, but would it be appropriate to treat an animal in such way? In 2005 when Tony called for an ambulance, he unknowingly made a choice. He chose to live. He chose to do this because he had a life worth living. He also chose to die with the assistance of a doctor. This was not just a choice but a right which was wrongly taken away from him after years of being trapped in his own body. Tony stated that if he had known what his life would become when he had had that stroke, he would not have called an ambulance, but died then. He had the right to die then, but not now?
Who has the right to say who lives and dies? These men in suites who broke the heart of man by taking away the only choice he had left in life? He clearly felt that quality of life was far more important than quantity of life. The Courts do not have to live with this decision but Tony would for what could have been up to 20 more years of his life. Why not allow him to die on his own terms when he had already made piece with his decision and his choice to die?
Tony had ruled out going to Switzerland to end his life and wished for his wife to have no hand in the process. There was also no guarantee that whoever assisted him would not be prosecuted.
In June 2012, Tony sent his first tweet (@TonyNicklinson) using eye movement technology. He could only ‘speak’ with his wife, spelling out words letter by letter by winking at a letter board. “Hello world. I am tony nicklinson, I have locked-in syndrome and this is my first ever tweet. #tony.” He gained thousands of followers and much needed support.
After Tony received the High Court’s decision, he lost hope and became severely depressed. He refused medication and refused to eat. Why wasn’t he forced to eat? I don’t think they had the ‘right’ to. Tony became weak and contracted pneumonia. On the 22 August 2012, Tony died in his home in Wiltshire, aged 58.
As the saying goes, if you can’t find a reason to live, then find one to die for. Tony’s finally tweet: ‘Goodbye world the time has come, I had some fun’
I sincerely hope Tony has found solace wherever he is after these horrific years since his stroke. My thoughts are with his family. X