Widow of man who fought for right to die can continue his case

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 18 March 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f1762
  1. Clare Dyer
  1. 1BMJ

The widow of Tony Nicklinson, the stroke survivor who lost his right to die case at the High Court last year, has been given permission by the Court of Appeal in London to carry on the legal battle.

Jane Nicklinson will be joined by a 57 year old man paralysed in a road traffic crash 23 years ago, who was granted permission by the appeal court judge Lord Justice Elias to be added to the legal action.

The man told the court that he wanted to have a doctor end his life with dignity, preferably by a lethal injection, with his family around him in his own home. He said that he felt worn out and fed up with going through the motions of life rather than living it.

He added, “I feel that I cannot and do not want to keep living. I feel trapped by the situation and have no way out.”

A divorced father of two, he was granted an anonymity order and can be named only as “L.” He is immobile apart from limited movement in his right hand and says that he has been in much pain since the crash.

Tony Nicklinson, who had locked-in syndrome, brought his case with another stroke survivor, “Martin.” Nicklinson died last August a week after three judges at the High Court refused his plea to allow a doctor to end his life and ruled that it was for parliament to change the law to sanction voluntary euthanasia.1 Upset by the decision, he had been refusing food and contracted pneumonia.

Jane Nicklinson, who vowed to continue his fight, has been allowed to amend her case to bring a human rights claim on her own behalf. A four day hearing is expected at the Court of Appeal in the summer.

Her counsel, Paul Bowen QC, said that he would be asking the appeal court to set aside the High Court’s decision and send the case back to a different panel of judges for reconsideration. The original court had “ducked the issue,” he told the judge.

In a statement released by his lawyers, L said, “I hope that this is the next step towards the ultimate goal of changing this cruel law, which keeps people like me alive when I want to have a dignified death.”


Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f1762