Wednesday, 22 August 2012

"Goodbye world, the time has come, I had some fun" Tony Nicklinson 1954-2012

RIP Mr Nicklinson. I'm sorry you lived in a society with a legal system so utterly without soul that you lost your fight for your right to choose how you die. I'm sorry that you suffered so much. I'm sorry that your wife and daughters suffered so much.

Tony Nicklinson suffered from locked-in syndrome since 2005 when he was paralysed from the neck down. He was fighting for the assurance that any doctor who helped him end his life would be free from prosecution. Six days ago he lost. He released a video statement after the verdict which showed his despair in the only way he still could. He sobbed.

He felt he was being abandoned to a life of total indignity and utter misery. And the only person who can know what it was like to be him was him. I can't even begin to imagine going from healthy and able-bodied to only being able to communicate slowly and laboriously with eye movements. I can't even begin to imagine the courage and fortitude he must have shown when fighting for what seems to be a logical and basic human right. And I certainly can't imagine the devastation he must have felt when he lost this fight.

In Switzerland, of course, he could have gone to Dignitas, where it's legal to use a lethal dose administered by a doctor to end your suffering. But he wanted to change the law for other people here in the UK. He wanted to make a difference. I don't think he was just fighting for himself but drawing attention to something that, with an ageing and longer-lived population than ever before, is likely to become an increasing focus for us all.

Death is terrifying. No one wants to think about it, no one wants to talk about it and no one wants to be reminded that, but for a roll of a die, anyone of us could be in Tony Nicklinson's position. But death is the only thing we know with total certainty that we will have to face one day, in some form or another. And wouldn't it be reassuring, wouldn't it be humane, wouldn't it be morally right if we knew we had the choice if something dreadful was to happen to us or someone close to us? I'm grateful to Mr Nicklinson for fighting for his rights. And for everyone else's too.

In the end he died at home from pneumonia. In his last act of asserting any control over his life he had refused food since the judgement. His lawyer called him an extraordinary man. His family stood with him shoulder to shoulder, fully supporting him throughout.

I'm glad his struggle is over. I hope his fight isn't forgotten and that it will be a catalyst for changes that so clearly need to be made to the law in this country.

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