A man paralysed from the neck down has asked to have the right to die, but British law prevents his choice from being honoured. It is a true human dilemma.
The High Court will decide today whether Tony Nicklinson, who can only communicate by blinking and who describes his life since a stroke in 2005 as a “living nightmare”, can be assisted to die by doctors without their being prosecuted for murder for so doing: his condition is such that he is unable to opt for assisted suicide because he cannot take drugs or any substance himself, so someone else would have to administer what was necessary to bring about his death – it would be homicide. There has been at least one previous case when the High Court ruled that an application by a badly damaged woman for the artificial respiration keeping her alive to be cut off could be granted, and I wonder why a request by Mr Nicklinson for his forced feeding to be stopped is not a more legally acceptable alternative to possible charges of murder – but there must be good reasons why this option has not been presented and I know only the superficial facts of this difficult case of locked-in syndrome. To ask someone to kill you places a heavy burden of responsibility upon them, particularly in our present western culture where there is such fear of death and so little understanding of the liberation it represents from the restrictions of being human. These decisions would be much easier if there were a better understanding of the nature of the soul and its journey, and also of the importance of honouring an individual’s right to choose – for making choices is what being human is all about. For Tony Nicklinson, mentally sound though physically impaired, to be denied by others the right to choose is true disempowerment, even more than the limitations given by his body, and I feel for him deeply, while being aware that at the level of the soul he has chosen, subconsciously, to experience this situation, testing the law and challenging conventional views about life and death as well as healing karma for himself and many others involved. There is much learning for all of this in this case – and, meanwhile, the law will decide, but perhaps, definitively, not just yet.