Tony Nicklinson

Today is not a day for levity. Today is a day to reflect on the sorry state of a nation that insists that people must continue to live in intolerable circumstances just because they are physically incapable of ending their own lives.

I have written on the subject of assisted death many times. It is a subject on which I hold strong views. Recently I have been appalled that the courts in the UK rejected a plea from Tony Nicklinson to end his suffering.

I cannot imagine the living hell that must accompany locked in syndrome. Some people would obviously cope with it better than others, but I know I couldn’t cope with it and would see no point whatever in carrying on with life. Nicklinson himself put it eloquently in an article for the BBC which he wrote prior to his recent court appeal :

“What I find impossible to live with is the knowledge that… I have no way out – suicide – when this life gets too much to bear. It cannot be acceptable in 21st Century Britain that I am denied the right to take my own life just because I am physically handicapped.”

Well, it seems that there is a God after all, because now Tony has died. Having refused food since last week, he developed pneumonia over last weekend and went downhill rapidly.

My thoughts go out to his wife and children.

Meanwhile, the fight for a change in the law goes on. It must come one day and, perhaps, when it does, that change will be a fitting memorial to a courageous, determined and principled man… 

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5 responses to “Tony Nicklinson

  1. Mick Anderson

    My Father had a degenerative brain disorder. When he was diagnosed, we were told that the longest lived patient with his problem had survived for seven years. He lasted twelve.For the first couple of years he was able to talk to us, but this declined quite rapidly. During this time, he suggested that he wanted to die, although his language was sufficiently scrambled that we could never be sure.We don't know how cognative he was for the last half of his decline. Did he know what was going on and put a brave face on it? Was he now just reacting to stimulus and was blissfully unaware? I want to believe the latter, but….Mr Nicklinson was very brave to have started his legal process – perhaps it was some sort of distration for him. Certainly when my Father was first diagnosed, he went through a lot of tests, repeated over time. His disease is relatively rare, and learning about it was important to him. His brain was left to the best researchers in this field, and we know he would have approved.Certainly, my Mother didn't want him to leave her. She suspended her life to care for him, and did everything possible to make things as tolerable as possible for him. It was only really in the last few weeks that she accepted the inevitable.Eventually his condition took a step down, and the specialist said that he had at most a further six months left – care was now officially palliative. He died three days later (this is not an exact science!)I know that the thing he dreaded most was any form of dementia. His knowing what was happening at the beginning was torture, in its most literal sense. However, even if there had been a means for me to end his life later on, I don't know if I could have helped (I struggle to euthanise a goldfish with terminal fin-rot). It would have certainly destroyed my relationship with my Mother.So, I'm very glad for Mr Nicklinsons family. I know they have done their best for him, and he has left a legacy where people are at least discussing what he wanted to achieve. That's more than most of us will ever achieve.Tie this in with something else in the news – the suicide of Tony Scott. If he believed that he had a brain cancer, I entirely understand why he jumped. To those who say that suicide is "always selfish", I say that to sacrifice your last bit of good life to protect those you leave behind from this sort of hell is a loving, altruistic act.I just hope that if I find that I have inherited my Fathers disorder that I will have the courage to do the same.

  2. Mick, a beautiful approach to your loved ones.You sound like a very decent chap with a strong sense of values.I am strongly in favour of selective euthanasia.

  3. Well said Dioclese – and also to Mick for a thought provoking comment.regardsBillo.

  4. i would have commented earlier, but my ISP has had 'issues' this evening!Thank you for your comments. Again I must make the distinction between euthanasia (murder) and assisted death (suicide). The difference is in who makes the decision – the patient or the doctor for example.The thing that pissed me off the most today was the coverage of this case on the BBC. A couple of days ago they ran a piece about another locked in victim and how he was contented with his lot and coping well mentally with his situation. I thought this was a balanced piece of reporting – until they failed totally to mention Tony's death on todays morning news.I scanned the news section on their red button to find out if they mentioned him. I eventually found it on on page three following an item about concern for the breeding situation of guillimots.Says a lot about the state of the nation when we consider the fate of birds more newsworthy than the death of a human being…

  5. Mick Anderson

    Anon: Thanks. I inherited my sense of values from my Father ;-)I rather like the idea of having a tick-box on the organ donor card stating your preference about assisted suicide. A chance to express a preference while you are still demonstrably rational.It might even encourage people to carry the things, on the basis that it could be to their own advantage!My sister and I now watch each other for the early signs. I'm not sure what we do with the knowledge if we spot them, though.