Right-to-die High Court plea

A man suffering from "locked-in" syndrome who says his life is "undignified and intolerable" is taking his right-to-die plea to the High Court. Tony Nicklinson suffered a stroke in 2005 that left him paralysed below the neck and unable to speak.

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The law on assisted suicide

  • It is an offence to encourage or assist a suicide or a suicide attempt in England and Wales.
  • Anyone doing so could face up to 14 years in prison.
  • To date, more than 100 UK citizens have travelled to Dignitas in Switzerland to die.
  • Although some cases have been considered by the DPP, no relative has yet been prosecuted.

In February 2010 the Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer published draft guidance to outline the factors that would determine whether someone would be prosecuted for assisting a suicide.

Right-to-die cases that have hit the headlines

Tony Nicklinson's legal battle is the latest high-profile right-to-die case to hit the headlines. Others have included:

Debbie Purdy

In 2009 Multiple Sclerosis patient Debbie Purdy won a legal victory in the House of Lords. Ms Purdy successfully argued it is a breach of her human rights not to know whether her husband would be prosecuted if he accompanies her to a Swiss clinic where she wishes to die if her condition worsens.

Tony Nicklinson with his wife Jane. Credit: Press Association

Sir Edward Downes

In 2009 Conductor Sir Edward Downes and his wife Joan died at an assisted suicide clinic in Switzerland. Downes, who was 85, was almost blind when he and his 74-year-old wife, who had become his full-time carer, travelled to Switzerland to end their lives.

Diane Pretty

Terminally ill British woman Diane Pretty lost her legal battle to allow her husband to help her commit suicide. The 43-year-old died of motor neurone disease at a hospice in 2002.

Daniel James

Rugby player Daniel James committed suicide in a Swiss euthanasia clinic in 2008. The 23-year-old had become paralysed from the chest down after a training accident. His death was investigated by police.


Stroke victim turns to Twitter to help speak his mind

Tony Nicklinson recently turned to Twitter so he could tell people why he wants a doctor to end his life.

However many of Tony's followers are trying to persuade him his life is worth keeping.


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