CARE NOT KILLING (CNK) has welcomed a decision by the High Court rejecting an appeal by Tony Nicklinson and a man known only as ‘Martin’ who both suffer from conditions resembling ‘locked-in syndrome’.
Nicklinson, who was paralysed after a stroke in 2005, is virtually unable to move. He communicates by movement of the head and by using an eye blink computer. Food has to be inserted directly into his stomach through a PEG tube.
He argued that a doctor who performed voluntary euthanasia on him would have a defence against murder on the grounds of a common law defence of necessity because there is no other way he can achieve relief from overwhelming distress. He also argued that his right to a private life under the European Convention on Human Rights is now incorporated into British law.
Martin is also unable to move and dependent on others to feed him. He was seeking a ruling on the likelihood of the Director of Public Prosecutions bringing charges against anyone who helped with his suicide at Dignitas.
In their judgement, the three judges acknowledged that these were tragic cases but said that it would be wrong for the court to change the law when Parliament has debated the issue several times in recent years.
Commenting on the case, Dr Andrew Fergusson who chairs the Advisory Group of CNK, said: “Months before the hearing Tony said: ‘I am delighted that we can now move on to discuss the pertinent issues properly in a dispassionate court of law.’ That dispassionate discussion has now happened and disabled people are all the safer for this welcome result.
“But – and this may be small comfort to Tony – I have been impressed by the compassionate approach of the court: recognising the desperate situations of the two men, in the fairness and tone of the debate, and in that the three judges watched the Channel Four documentary about Tony transmitted the night before the hearing began.”