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Right to die: Tony Nicklinson wins right to have case heard

Tony Nicklinson, the 57-year-old man suffering from 'locked-in syndrome' has won the first stage of his High Court case, after a judge ruled yesterday against a Ministry of Justice application to have the case struck out.

The MoJ had stated in a preliminary 'strike out' application that a case such as this, which is seeking a dramatic change in the law to allow a defence of necessity for a murder charge, should not be heard by a court, but rather should rightfully be debated in Parliament.

However, lawyers acting for Mr Nicklinson, who describes his life as 'miserable and demeaning', successfully argued that his case should be heard on its very particular set of facts. They claim that this would not open the flood-gates, and instead would allow courts in future to decide such harrowing cases on their individual merits.

Mr Nicklinson was left paralysed by a stroke in 2005. He is unable to speak or move but is completely conscious of thought. His injuries mean that he must communicate by blinking into a computerised device which translates his thoughts into speech.

Mr Nicklinson's wife is his primary carer. She spoke yesterday about how she has witnessed her husband, who was previously an active man who played rugby and was described by colleagues as a typical 'alpha' male, become sullen and tearful on an almost daily basis as he struggles with his plight.

Speaking to Radio 4's Today programme, she said: "We are asking for it to be legal for someone to end his life," she said.

"If you knew the kind of person he was before, life like this is unbearable for him. He realises as he gets older things are going to get worse," she added.

In argument yesterday, counsel for Mr Nicklinson successfully argued that the MoJ had not produced any argument which was sufficient to justify striking out the action.

"The MoJ case is that necessity can never afford a defence to a charge of murder," said Paul Bowen, for Mr Nicklinson.

"[But they] cannot establish on the balance of probabilities that his case has no real prospects of success," he added.

Mr Bowen explained that Mr Nicklinson's case was an act of euthanasia or assisted suicide which represented "the only means by which his suffering may be brought to an end and his fundamental common law rights of autonomy and dignity may be vindicated".

Related links:

Read more on the story (The Telegraph)

Assisted suicide and the law (FindLaw)

Find solicitors throughout the UK (FindLaw)