Added by Erik West on August 23, 2012
Tony Nicklinson died on Wednesday, one week after the British High Court of Justice turned down his request for the right to assisted death. Nickinson, 58, died at his home surrounded by his family.
Nickinson lawyer, Saimo Chahal said Nickinson’s wife said, “…he was heatbroken by the high court’s decision that he could not end his life at a time of his choosing with the help of a doctor.”
Local police verified Nickinson died of natural causes after a doctor had certified his death.
Nickinson is reported to have suffered from a stroke when he was 51 – he suffered from locked-in syndrome since that time. Locked-in syndrome is a condition in which the sufferer is aware and awake yet is unable to move or communicate verbally as a result of complete paralysis of almost all muscles. Most that suffer from locked-in syndrome are able to control their eyes.
Nickinson’s lawyer visited him two days after the verdict where Nickinson said, “So, we lost. In truth I am crestfallen, totally devastated and very frightened. I fear for the future and the misery it is bound to bring,” – Nickinson communicated using a computer he operated using eye movements.
The presiding judge acknowledged Nickinson’s case was very moving, yet said parliament, not a court case, is the only entity that could change the law.
Nickinson’s family could have taken him to Dignitas, Switzerland where assisted suicide can be legally administered.
Nickinson’s family posted a message on his Twitter account that said, “You may already know, my Dad died peacefully this morning of natural causes. He was 58. Before he died, he asked us to tweet: ‘Goodbye world, the time has come, I had some fun.’ Thank you for your support over the years. We would appreciate some privacy at this difficult time. Love, Jane, Lauren and Beth.”
Locked-in syndrome is often caused by damage to specific areas of the lower brain and brainstem and the absence of damage to the upper brain, where cognitive functions reside. As a result patients are cognitively intact yet are unable to move, except for their eyes.
Causes of locked-in syndrome include stroke, traumatic brain injury, medication overdose, and damage to nerve cells caused by disease.
Approximately 90% of people with locked-in syndrome die within four months after its onset.
It is very rare that any significant motor function returns. There are only two cases where patients achieved full recovery – Katy Pink in 2010 and Kate Allatt in early 2012.