Legal action brought by locked-in syndrome sufferer Tony Nicklinson, who wants a doctor to be able to end his “intolerable” life lawfully, can go ahead following a judge’s ruling in Britain today.
The decision was announced at the High Court in London by Mr Justice Charles, who had been asked to decide on a preliminary “strike out” application in the case made by the Ministry of Justice.
He had heard argument that it was not for the courts to act, but Parliament.
Announcing his decision today the judge allowed most of Mr Nicklinson’s case to proceed – striking out one part of his claim.
Mr Nicklinson, 57, who is married with two grown-up daughters and lives in Melksham, Wiltshire, wants a doctor to be “lawfully” able to end his life, which he sums up as “dull, miserable, demeaning, undignified and intolerable”.
He launched a legal action seeking court declarations that a doctor could intervene to end his “indignity” and have a “common law defence of necessity” against any murder charge.
At a recent hearing, Paul Bowen, for Mr Nicklinson – who suffered a stroke in 2005 – said the Ministry of Justice had not advanced any arguments which were a sufficient “knock-out blow” to justify striking out the action.
Before today's ruling Mr Nicklinson's wife, former nurse Jane Nicklinson, said there was a ``huge amount'' of public support for his bid for a doctor to be able to ``lawfully'' end his life.
“The only way to relieve Tony’s suffering will be to kill him. There is absolutely nothing else that can be done for him,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Mr Justice Charles said the underlying issues in the case “raise questions that have great social, ethical and religious significance and they are questions on which widely differing beliefs and views are held, often strongly”.
He pointed out that the issues before him only related to whether Mr Nicklinson’s arguments “have any real prospect of success or whether there is some other compelling reason why these proceedings should be tried”.
The circumstances in which Mr Nicklinson and his family find themselves were ones which “evoke deepest sympathy”.