BY Ian Dunn | March 12 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Euthanasia case to proceed

High Court judge allows locked-in syndrome sufferer Tony Nicklinson’s case for a doctor to legally kill him to be heard even though assisted suicide and euthanasia are against UK law

A severely disabled man who wants a doctor to be able to lawfully kill him can proceed with his court case, a judge ruled today in spite of deeming part the case an issue for Parliament.

The High Court in London ruled that Tony Nicklinson (above), 57, who is paralysed from the neck down but whose mental faculties are unaffected, can continue his legal fight to ensure that any doctor who would kill him would be spared murder charges.

The Ministry of Justice had wanted the case to be struck out, arguing that only Parliament can change the law on murder. Judge William Charles ruled against only one part of Mr Nicklinson’s claim, allowing him to proceed with his action. The judge said Mr Nicklinson, who suffers from locked-in syndrome following a stroke in 2005, did not have a realistic chance of persuading a court to declare that ‘existing domestic law and practice fail adequately to regulate the practice of active euthanasia.’

“The reason for this is that the court should not engage in that debate because it is a matter for Parliament,” the judge said, adding that the rest of the case could proceed.

Mr Nicklinson from Wiltshire in south-west England, who communicates by controlling a computer with eye movements, has described his life as ‘dull, miserable, demeaning, undignified and intolerable.’

A spokesman for Care not Killing said today’s ruling was a very worrying development.

“No one can help but be sympathetic to Tony Nicklinson but cases like his are extremely rare and hard cases make bad law,” he said. “The overwhelming majority of people with severe disability do not wish to die but rather want support to live.

“The current law is clear and right and does not need fixing or further weakening. On the one hand the penalties it holds in reserve act as a powerful deterrent to exploitation and abuse by those who might have an interest, financial or otherwise, in the deaths of vulnerable people. On the other hand the law gives judges some discretion to temper justice with mercy when sentencing in hard cases. We should not be meddling with it.”

The Catholic Church in Scotland has repeatedly spoken out against assisted suicide and euthanasia, prompted in recent years by independent MSP Margo MacDonald’s attempts to have them legalised by the Scottish Parliament.

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