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Tony Nicklinson: 'Right to Die' Euthanasia Case Will Proceed in UK

Tony Nicklinson: 'Right to Die' Euthanasia Case Will Proceed in UK

Tony Nicklinson, 57, has won the right to have his case heard by the British High Court; Nicklinson is petitioning the court for the right to die.

Nicklinson suffered a debilitating stroke seven years ago and is currently in a "locked-in" physical condition. While he is able to think and process information, Nicklinson cannot do anything else except for blink. In a statement to The Associated Press, Nicklinson has described his quality of life as "dull, miserable, demeaning, undignified, and intolerable."

He has petitioned Britain's High Court for the right to die with assistance, since he is unable to end his life by himself. As the law stands, anyone who helps to kill Nicklinson will be immediately charged with murder, even if Nicklinson gives an agreement granting his permission.

"He argues that it's unfair on him and that a human legal system would enable somebody in his circumstances, with considerable safeguards, to get help from a doctor to exercise a right, which he has in theory but is deprived of in practice," Saimo Chahal, Nicklinson's lawyer, told AP.

"Most people who want to die, who are physically able to do so, can lawfully commit suicide," Chahal added.

The Ministry of Justice has petitioned the High Court to dismiss the case, arguing that Parliament would have to change the entire law in order to accommodate Nicklinson's wishes. Today a judge announced that the case will proceed.

Euthanasia is legal in only a handful of European countries including the Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxemburg, as well as the state of Oregon in the United States. Proponents of the practice argue that people, especially those with terminal or painful illnesses, should be allowed to end their lives in a peaceful, medical way. Opponents, however, argue that euthanasia directly contradicts the Hippocratic oath of "first do no harm" and could lead to cases of abuse including murder. Ethically many also argue that it is not for man to take away life.

"I'm massively sympathetic to Nicklinson's situation, but I don't think we should change the law when it will impact hundreds of thousands of other people," said Dr. John Wiles of Care Not Killing. "However narrow you try to make it, in principle, we would be allowing the killing of other members of society for the first time."

Nicklinson's wife has said that Tony's family fully supports his decision. "The only way to relieve Tony's suffering will be to kill him," Jane told the Today program.

"If you knew the kind of person that he was before, a life like this is unbearable for him. People think he wants to die straight away. He doesn't - he just wants to know that when the time comes, he has a way out," she explained.

Others, however, reference the Biblical commandment stating that one shall not kill.

"Thou shalt not kill…unless it is really necessary? No, I can understand the pain he must be going through," wrote Sicario Qbano on the Metro U.K.'s website. "But the taking of any life is wrong."

As the case proceeds, the debate surrounding euthanasia will continue, though both sides of the argument are unlikely to reach a common agreement about the practice.


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