A basic right, a complex issue

The case of Tony Nicklinson, the man who today has lost a legal battle to have his life ended by a doctor, is a difficult one. It isn't difficult because of the legal and moral implications, nor because there are good points to both arguments. It is difficult because it is proof that the state does not always have its citizens' safety and wellbeing at heart. 

Tony Nicklinson has been almost completely paralysed and unable to speak since suffering a stroke in 2005. His 'right to die' case challenged the law on murder, arguing that it should be lawful for a doctor to administer a lethal drug to end his life.The High Court, however, ruled that a doctor would not be protected from a murder charge. Judge Lord justice Toulson said that allowing him to end his life would have implications “far beyond” his case.

“Under our system of government these are matters for Parliament to decide, representing society as a whole, after Parliamentary scrutiny, and not for the court on the facts of an individual case or cases.” 

There are several interviews with Nicklinson in which he describes the pain he goes through every day. He said: "If I am lucky I will acquire a life-threatening illness such as cancer so that I can refuse treatment and say no to those who would keep me alive against my will." Despite having a clear mind, the fact that Nicklinson cannot move means that he would be unable to go to Dignitas in Switzerland, as he would be legally required to self-administer his own lethal drugs. 

Nicklinson says that it was his decision to ring for an ambulance when he had is stroke. " It was a fair assumption given that I had asked for the ambulance and associated medical staff. What I object to is having my right to choose taken away from me after I had been saved," he said. 

The harrowing video footage after the court's decision shows Nicklinson crying, and saying that this isn't the end of his fight. He says that he resents being told by the state what he can and can't do with his life, which is absolutely true. No doubt it's a very complicated case, but at its simplest level, it's denying a basic human right due to disability. 

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