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Assisted dying: Man begins fight for right to die in High Court

A man paralysed from the neck downwards after suffering a stroke will take his case to the High Court today in order to win the right to allow doctors to end his life.

Tony Nicklinson is suffering from a condition known as 'locked-in syndrome', where almost all the muscles in his body are paralysed except for those in his eyes. This means that although he is awake and alert he can only communicate by blinking his eyes, and must be fed through a tube.

His solicitor, Saimo Chahal agrees that the case raises "difficult legal, moral and ethical questions."

The law on assisted dying currently prohibits doctors from helping anyone to end their own life. The current case will challenge this proposition directly, as Mr Nicklinson is unable to do anything to end his own life and would therefore require assistance from another person.

This fact means that Mr Nicklinson is unable to travel to the Swiss euthanasia clinic, Dignitas, which has a policy of only allowing for assisted suicide in situations where the person wishing to end their own life is able to do so by themselves.

"We are saying there should be a defence to the law of murder and want a declaration that it would be lawful for a doctor to administer a lethal drug to terminate Mr Nicklinson's life," said Mr Nicklinson's solicitor.

It is thought that lawyers for the Ministry of Justice will ask for the case to be struck out, on the basis that it would change the law and that this would therefore be a matter for Parliament and not the courts.

Mr Nicklinson suffered a stroke whilst working for an engineering firm on a project in the United Arab Emirates. He has previously underlined his stance on his right to self-determination.

"What I have to look forward to is a wretched ending with uncertainty, pain and suffering whilst my family watch on helplessly," he said.

"Why must I suffer these indignities? If I were able-bodied I could put an end to my life when I want to. Why is life so cruel?"

Related links:

Read more on the story (The Guardian)

Assisted suicide (FindLaw)

Find local specialist solicitors throughout the UK (FindLaw)