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Remembering right-to-die activist Tony Nicklinson on the 10th anniversary of his death

Pictured: Tony and his wife, Jane Nicklinson

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the death of assisted dying campaigner Tony Nicklinson. Tony famously took his right to die case to the High Court; and after he died, his widow Jane, alongside Paul Lamb, took the case on to the Supreme Court. Unfortunately they did not succeed, but the precedent they set, known as Nicklinson, remains the most important piece of case law on assisted dying today.

In 2005 Tony suffered a catastrophic stroke which left him with locked-in syndrome. He was paralysed from the neck down and unable to speak. He could only communicate via blinking, and described his life as a ‘living nightmare’.

Humanists UK staunchly supported Tony when he brought his case in a bid to obtain the right to have a doctor end his life without fear of prosecution.

Sadly, on 16 August 2012, Tony lost the case, with the judge ruling ‘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. Under our system of government these are matters for Parliament to decide.’

On losing his case, Tony commented, ‘I am saddened that the law wants to condemn me to a life of increasing indignity and misery.’ Tony died on 22 August, a week later, after contracting pneumonia and refusing food and treatment.

Today, Tony’s daughter, Lauren Nicklinson, said:

‘The last ten years should have allowed politicians to drive change and give people who are incurably suffering the dignified end they want. Yet nothing has changed.

‘We don’t want Dad’s suffering to be forgotten; the last seven years of his life were a living nightmare for him, and the thought of what he went through would be more bearable if we can attach some meaning to his suffering.

‘So please don’t forget about Tony Nicklinson and all that he stood for – autonomy, bravery, passion, and determination – and help us secure the change in the law that would have given him the death he deserved.’

Humanists UK Assisted Dying Campaigner Nathan Stilwell said:

‘Today we strive to remember Tony for the man that he was: a loving father, a husband, and a tireless campaigner. It’s sad to think about how little has changed in England and Wales since he died, but it also tells us that we must redouble our efforts to bring about the change in law people like him so badly need.

‘On this anniversary, our politicians should remember Tony and either launch an inquiry into assisted dying, or give enough parliamentary time for a proper debate and vote.’

Notes:

For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at press@humanists.uk or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.

Tony’s daughter Lauren is available for interviews with UK media, that can be arranged through Humanists UK.

Media are free to use this picture of Tony and Jane Nicklinson, with kind permission from the family: https://humanists.uk/wp-content/uploads/JaneTonyNicklinson.jpg

Read more about Tony Nicklinson.

Read the ONS study on suicides among people diagnosed with severe health conditions.

Read more about our campaign to legalise assisted dying in the UK.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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