Sunday, August 26, 2012

RIP Tony Nicklinson

I offer my condolences to Tony Nicklinson's family and friends should any of them encounter this. A few days prior to his death, they accompanied him to the Court of Appeal to hear the result of his action to be allowed the right to assistance in ending his life. They will probably have received the news of his death from natural causes with mixed emotions. Nicklinson was often described as having 'locked-in' syndrome although this expression used to apply to those conscious but totally unable to tell the outside world. Nicklinson could communicate, albeit slowly.

I think the court probably made the right decision in this dreadfully difficult case. It is the tough cases that give us our legal precedents in this country. This one sure was tough. Rational, intelligent and determined, Nicklinson probably ticked all the boxes of someone who, if able to, would have taken his own life without the balance of his mind being disturbed. Yet since he couldn't do more than move his head a little and blink at a key pad it is unlikely that any way could have been found for him to do so. (Could a password-activated lethal injection be possible?)

I'm sure the court, which was accused by the relatives of not taking the matter seriously, would have loved to grant Nicklinson's request. What he wanted was the assurance that anyone who assisted him would not be prosecuted. But if the courts had agreed to this they would have opened the door to relatives with fewer scruples using the precedent to get rid of old, cumbersome and deteriorating family members who still wanted to live. No way could you say the verdict was unconsidered. It was a lazy accusation (if reported accurately). A bit like telling a politician who is not going to do what you want them to do that they are not listening.

Nicklinson did not want to travel to Switzerland for an appointment with Dignitas although he could have done. He wanted to die peacefully, in his own bed, surrounded by those who loved him. As it happened he did although he had to refuse food to get there apparently.

Tragic, complicated and why we have Law Lords. RIP.

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