A British man with “locked-in syndrome”, who can move only his head and eyes, was Tuesday pressing on with a legal test case to establish that his wife could end his life.
Since suffering a stroke five years ago, Tony Nicklinson, 56, has been able to communicate only by means of a Perspex board and letters — looking, blinking and nodding to spell out words.
Once a senior manager with an engineering company and a rugby player, he now has round-the-clock care and says that he does not wish to “dribble my way into old age.
"In a move that breaks legal ground in the U.K., Nicklinson is asking the Director of Public Prosecutions to clarify the law in cases of “mercy killing."
He wants guidance to ensure his wife, Jane, 54, could take “active steps” to end his life and not be prosecuted for murder.
The case is the first test under the new Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government of one of the most difficult and emotionally charged areas of law and public policy.
Unlike other cases of assisted suicide, Nicklinson cannot take the final steps to end his life without direct help — unless he starves and dehydrates himself to death.
But any assistance would be regarded as euthanasia, which in England and Wales amounts to murder.
Mercy killing is no defense. Nicklinson, whose “mind is as clear as a bell”, is not prepared to expose his wife to a murder prosecution. His legal team is seeking guidance from Keir Starmer, QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, on whether his wife would be prosecuted.
If they fail they will challenge Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Secretary, to review the law on murder in the context of mercy killing.
In a witness statement Nicklinson, from Chippenham, Wiltshire, said, “I am a 56-year-old man who suffered a catastrophic stroke in June 2005 while on a business trip to Athens, Greece. It left me paralyzed below the neck and unable to speak. I need help in almost every aspect of my life.
“I cannot scratch if I itch. I can only eat if I am fed like a baby —only I won’t grow out of it, unlike a baby. I have no privacy or dignity left. I am washed, dressed and put to bed by carers who are, after all, still strangers. “I am fed up with my life and don’t want to spend the next 20 years or so like this. Am I grateful that the Athens doctors saved my life? No, I am not.”