Mr Tony Nicklinson, 57, who is severely disabled following a stroke, wants a doctor to directly end his life (voluntary euthanasia). Mr Nicklinson is unable to end his own life due to the nature of his disabilities. Any doctor who acceded to Mr Nicklinson’s request would be liable to life imprisonment for murder.
Mr Nicklinson’s legal case will ask the High Court to consider whether there should be a defence of necessity available to a doctor who provides voluntary euthanasia to him. The existing partial defences to murder would not apply in the situation of a doctor directly ending a patient’s life at their request.
Commenting on the news, Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying said:
“This case raises difficult legal and ethical issues. Whilst Dignity in Dying would not support a change in the law to allow voluntary euthanasia (direct ending of life) by doctors or others, we think this is an important case which should be given a fair hearing in court. There is no doubt that as a society we are better off facing up to these issues and hearing the arguments in full.
“Dignity in Dying would like to see a law which allows terminally ill, mentally competent adults the choice of an assisted death. This law would not apply to Mr Nicklinson, as he is severely disabled but not terminally ill. In cases which fall outside of the framework of assisted dying, the law should be equipped to react with compassion and flexibility so that sentencing can reflect the motivation for the crime and circumstances.”
The Nicklinson case is the latest challenge to the inflexibility of the current law of murder, following the Homicide Review Advisory Group report last December and several Law Commission reviews. The Ministry of Justice will oppose the case.
Notes to editor:
About Dignity in Dying:
- Dignity in Dying campaigns for greater choice, control and access to services at the end of life. It advocates providing terminally ill adults with the option of an assisted death, within strict legal safeguards, and for universal access to high quality end-of-life care.
- Dignity in Dying has over 25,000 supporters and receives its funding entirely from donations from the public.
For all Dignity in Dying media enquiries please contact Jo Cartwright on 020 7479 7737 / 07725433025 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.