Since having a stroke in 2005, Tony Nicklinson has suffered from locked-in syndrome, a condition whereby he is unable to speak or move below the neck, but his mind is fully active and responsive. Mr Nicklinson communicates by blinking and requires constant care. While the condition is not terminal, Tony Nicklinson believes he has no quality of life.
It is the loss of this quality of life which led Mr Nicklinson to mount an unsuccessful challenge through Britain’s High Court to have the country’s euthanasia laws overturned. Such an outcome would have meant that any doctor who assists the 58-year-old to end his life would not be prosecuted. Upon hearing that his challenge had been denied, Tony said he was “devastated and heartbroken” and would appeal the decision. In a statement Mr Nicklinson said “I am saddened that the law wants to condemn me to a life of increasing indignity and misery”.
Read the full story at The Age.com.au
The tragic tale of Tony Nicklinson highlights the need for a radical rethink on the violation of a person’s human rights when it comes to choosing when and how to die. Only he can truly understand the horror of being trapped in a body which does not respond to the brain’s commands and the indignity of having someone take care of his every personal body function. What adds gravitas to the argument is the fact that Mr Nicklinson is of sound mind and can fully appreciate the enormity of choosing to end his own life.
He is not seeking an end to a miserable life in a moment of depression, nor is this a knee-jerk reaction to bad news. This man has lived with this indignity for seven years and is fully aware that there is no immediate end to his personal hell, which could continue for a further 20 years.
The serious topic of euthanasia is often confused and belittled by the argument that we do not allow our animals to suffer, so why not afford the same rights to humans? Whilst the care and consideration we give our animal companions is commendable, it can’t compare to the severity of ending a human life. Animals are not able to express their wishes, but in many cases humans are and have done so. Yet we continue to deny those suffering this basic human right.
Euthanasia and the right to die conjure up many arguments, be they legal, moral or religious. Finding a solution which satisfies all three would be near impossible, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. By failing to properly address the topic, we are condemning people to a life of “increasing indignity and misery”. We are also increasing the likelihood of people who receive a terminal diagnosis taking their own lives, while they still can, which is often too early and incredibly traumatic for those they leave behind.
Too often society tries to force it’s values and beliefs onto others who simply do not agree. Those who object to euthanasia on religious grounds are entitled to those objections, but not everyone is religious, nor do we all follow the same religion. It is time to remove the hysteria surrounding the right to die and deal with it as another medical procedure, which can be fully investigated, and practical support offered to those who are faced with the decision.
Is it time to legalise euthanasia and give people the choice of when they die? Or should death be a natural occurrence?