Monday, 20 August 2012

BHA: Ending A Life With Compassion



Last week Tony Nicklinson lost his High Court case to allow doctors to end his life without risk of prosecution.  We supported Mr Nicklinson’s case, so we are of course disappointed with this outcome.

Mr Nicklinson suffered a catastrophic stroke in 2005 which left him paralysed with locked-in syndrome.  He communicates by blinking, and has described his life since the stroke as a ‘living nightmare’.  He says that he is ‘devastated’ by the court’s decision, and that ‘I am saddened that the law wants to condemn me to a life of increasing indignity and misery.’  Another man, known as Martin, also lost his court case to end his life with help from doctors.

We have long campaigned for a new approach on assisted dying, with safeguards to protect the vulnerable.  We believe that mentally competent adults should be able to make decisions about their lives, as long as they do not result in harm to others.  In cases where a patient is suffering incurably, is permanently incapacitated, and has made a clear and informed decision to end their life but is unable to do so independently, we believe the law should allow a doctor to intervene.

However, this case is not over yet, because Mr Nicklinson plans to appeal against the decision.  We will continue to support his case, and we will also continue to campaign for legislation in Parliament to legalise assisted dying.