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03 January 2013

Tony Nicklinson’s wife to continue right to die case after appeal win

4 mins

The Court of Appeal has made an order that Jane Nicklinson, as the Administrator of Tony Nicklinson’s estate, can take forward Tony’s case that the current law of murder and/or assisted suicide was incompatible with his right to respect for dignity and autonomy under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Jane Nicklinson has also been granted Permission to appeal the judgment of the High court. Additionally, Jane Nicklinson has been granted a protective costs order so that if she loses she will not be liable for the costs of her opponents.

Background Information about the case

1. In June 2005, Tony Nicklinson suffered a stroke causing “locked-in” syndrome, leaving him almost completely paralysed and totally dependant on others for his care needs, 24 hours a day. Once Tony’s condition had stabilised, he had a reasonable expectation of living many more years.  Tony Nicklinson tried to make the best of his situation but eventually decided that the prospect of living in his situation was not one he relished.  He made a competent and rational decision to end his own life.

However, by virtue of his almost total physical disability, he was unable to act on that wish, other than by refusing all foods and fluids and therefore dying of dehydration.  He did not wish to go down that route.  He asked that he should be able to have medical assistance from a doctor to end his life when the time was right for him.  This would inevitably involve the doctor helping him to commit a criminal offence, either of assisted suicide or murder.  Tony Nicklinson then bought proceedings challenging this legal state of affairs.

2. The Declarations that he asked for were that:

• It would be legal on the grounds of necessity for a doctor to end his life.  Tony asked for the common law defence of necessity to be extended to cover a doctor helping him to have a defence to a charge of murder in the case of voluntary euthanasia.  The court was asked to sanction this in advance.  A court in British Columbia, Canada has recently just done exactly that!

• Tony’s second argument was that the current law of murder and/or assisted suicide is incompatible with his right to respect for dignity and autonomy under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

3. Tony’s case was heard by a Divisional Court in London between 19 and 22 June 2012 and Judgment was given on 16 August 2012 dismissing both claims.

4. Following the judgment, Tony Nicklinson refused nutrition and medical treatment and died of pneumonia less than a week later on 22 August 2012.

Implications

5. The case has very wide public significance which has been recognised by the court in granting permission to appeal.  Also, in letting Jane effectively step into Tony’s shoes.  This will mean that the important issues which Tony fought for will now be debated and not lost.

6. Since Tony’s death other people have come forward to say that they wish to purse the second Declaration that Tony fought for.  It is possible that a second Claimant will ask to be joined to the case shortly.  His case is currently being investigated as a matter of urgency.

Please click on the links below to read the related media coverage:

Family of locked-in syndrome sufferer Tony Nicklinson win right to appeal (The Times, 4 January 2013)
Nicklinson posthumous right-to-die appeal (The Law Society Gazette, 4 January 2013)
Nicklinson family to continue 'right to die' battle (Law on the Web, 4 January 2013)‎
Bereaved family of locked-in syndrome sufferer Tony Nicklinson granted permission to continue his right-to-die campaign in Court of Appeal (Daily Mail, 4 January 2013)

Tony Nicklinson's widow to continue right-to-die fight (BBC News, 3 January 2013)
Tony Nicklinson's family wins right to appeal against high court ruling (The Guardian, 3 ‎January 2013‎)
Right-to-die campaign will continue say family of Tony Nicklinson (The Independent, 3 January 2013)
Court victory for wife of Melksham right-to-die campaigner (This Is Wiltshire, 3 January 2013)
Family win bid to appeal right to die ruling  (Morning Star Online, 3 January 2013)
 

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