BHA mourns Tony Nicklinson, campaigner for assisted dying

The British Humanist Association (BHA) has expressed its sadness at the death of Tony Nicklinson, who campaigned for a new approach on assisted dying.  He was 58, and he died on Wednesday morning at home.

In 2005, while on a business trip to Athens, he suffered a catastrophic stroke which left him with locked-in syndrome.  Before the stroke, Tony had been very fit and active, and was a keen rugby player and skydiver.  But after the stroke, he was paralysed from the neck down and unable to speak.  He could only communicate via blinking, and described his life as a ‘living nightmare’.  However, despite the suffering which he endured, he became a passionate campaigner for a new approach on assisted dying.  Using a computer which tracked his eye movements, he set up a Twitter account, and was frequently interviewed by the media.

Tony started a legal case in which he tried to obtain the right to have a doctor end his life without fear of prosecution.  Under current law, it is not permitted for a doctor to end the life of a patient who is suffering incurably, and who wants to end their life but is unable to do so independently.  Any doctor who does intervene in this way could face prosecution for murder, which carries a sentence of life imprisonment.  Tony’s legal case to establish the right to have a doctor lawfully end his life went to the High Court last week, but he lost the case.  Tony said that he was ‘devastated’ by the court’s decision, but he vowed to continue the fight and appeal against the decision.

Andrew Copson, BHA Chief Executive, commented ‘we are deeply saddened to hear this news.  Tony was an inspirational and courageous man.  We supported his legal case, and we will continue to support others who are in a similar situation to him.  We will also continue to campaign for a new approach on the right-to-die, and for legislation in Parliament to legalise assisted dying.  Tony’s determination and dedication to campaigning on this important issue will not be forgotten.  Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.’

Pavan Dhaliwal
Head of Public Affairs, British Humanist Association
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