Aug. 22, 2012 -- A paralyzed man who fought to overturn Britain's ban on assisted suicide died today from pneumonia less than a week after losing his controversial court case.
Tony Nicklinson had locked-in syndrome after suffering a stroke in 2005. Trapped inside a paralyzed body and forced to communicate by blinking his eyes, the 58-year-old man asked three of Britain's High Court judges to grant him the right to end his "dull, miserable, demeaning, undignified and intolerable" life with a doctor-administered lethal injection.
"I thought that if the court saw me as I am, utterly miserable with my life, powerless to do anything about it because of my disability, then the judges would accept my reasoning that I do not want to carry on and should be able to have a dignified death," the former corporate manager from Wiltshire said in a statement issued by his lawyer.
But on Aug. 16, the court upheld the law barring Nicklinson from dying with a doctor's help.
"It is not for the court to decide whether the law about assisted dying should be changed and, if so, what safeguards should be put in place," Lord Justice Roger Toulson said in his ruling. "Under our system of government, these are matters for parliament to decide, representing society as a whole, after parliamentary scrutiny, and not for the court on the facts of an individual case or cases."
A spokesman for British anti-euthanasia group Care Not Killing applauded the ruling, saying, "it confirms the simple truth that the current law exists to protect those without a voice: the disabled, terminally ill and elderly, who might otherwise feel pressured into ending their lives."
For Nicklinson, the decision was devastating.
"I am saddened that the law wants to condemn me to a life of increasing indignity and misery," he said in a statement.
Nicklinson planned to appeal the court ruling, but his health quickly deteriorated. He "died peacefully this morning of natural causes," according to a tweet posted by his wife, Jane, and daughters Lauren and Beth.
"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," they wrote.
Jane Nicklinson added, "I have lost the love of my life but he suffers no more."
In the United States, assisted dying is legal in Oregon, Washington and Montana.