TRIBUTES have been paid to the “extraordinary” Tony Nicklinson who died peacefully at his home yesterday, just days after he lost a landmark right-to-die case.
Suffering from “locked-in” syndrome, the 58-year-old was paralysed from the neck down after he had a stroke in 2005 and described his life as a “living nightmare”.
Last week, Mr Nicklinson, from Melksham, Wiltshire, lost his High Court case to allow doctors to end his life. His family solicitor said that he had refused food from last week.
Mr Nicklinson deteriorated rapidly after contracting pneumonia and died yesterday morning.
Family solicitor Saimo Chahal described him as “gutsy, determined and a fighter to the end”.
But she admitted that after being refused the legal right to end his life with a doctor’s help “the fight seemed to go out of him”.
He died with his wife Jane, his daughters Beth and Lauren and his sister, Ginny, beside him.
His family confirmed his death on the 58-year-old’s Twitter feed. “You may already know, my Dad died peacefully this morning of natural causes. He was 58,” they wrote. “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.”
Mr Nicklinson had broken down in tears after last week’s verdict. A civil engineer, who had travelled the world through his work, he argued he had been robbed of privacy and dignity after being paralysed from the neck down following a stroke seven years ago.
Ms Chahal, of law firm Bindmans, said: “Jane said that, after Tony received the draft judgment on 12 August refusing his claim, the fight seemed to go out of him.
“He said that he was heartbroken by the High Court decision that he could not end his life at a time of his choosing with the help of a new doctor. He could not understand how the legal argument on his behalf could not succeed.”
She said Mr Nicklinson visited her, with his barrister Paul Bowen QC, last week and 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.
“I suppose it was wrong of me to invest so much hope and expectation into the judgment, but I really believed in the veracity of the argument and quite simply could not understand how anybody could disagree with the logic.”
Three judges sitting in London said Mr Nicklinson and a 47-year-old man, known only as Martin, both faced a “terrible predicament” that was “deeply moving and tragic”.
But they insisted it would be up to parliament to bring about any changes to the law.
Mr Nicklinson had vowed to appeal the ruling. His death may signal an end to hopes of a change in the law, unless someone else pursues it.
Ms Chahal said: “The appeal that he had initiated will come to an end unless someone steps forward in similar circumstances to pursue the action.”
Penney Lewis, professor of law at the Centre of Medical Law and Ethics at King’s College London, said Mr Nicklinson’s plight would continue to raise questions about a change in the law.
Prof Lewis added: “He was directly challenging the law. I think he has quite a significant role in the history of legal challenges in this context.
“There have been very high-profile (right-to-die) campaigns, and parliament seems disinclined to resolve them. I think one reason almost certainly is that it is a divisive issue.”