Man with locked-in syndrome, Tony Nicklinson, dies at home week after losing euthanasia court case

MELKSHAM, ENGLAND - AUGUST 16: Tony Nicklinson's wife Jane attends to her husband at their home as he prepares for a statement to be read out regarding the decision made by High Court judges not to allow him to ask a doctor to end his life on August 16, 2012 in Melksham, England. Mr Nicklinson who suffers from locked-in syndrome after suffering a stroke, has lost his High Court battle for the legal right to end his life when he chooses with a doctor?s help. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images) Matt Cardy

Tony Nicklinson's wife Jane attends to her husband at their home in Melksham, England on August 16, 2012, after a court decided it would not allow the man with locked-in syndrome to ask a doctor to end his life. Nicklinson died on August 22, 2012 at his home, his family said.
Matt Cardy/ Getty Images
(CBS/AP) Tony Nicklinson found living with locked-in syndrome so difficult that he petitioned Britain's High Court to overturn his country's ban on euthanasia. On Wednesday, his lawyers announced he died at home.

U.K. court denies euthanasia requests from two men with locked-in syndrome
U.K. man denied euthanasia request dies at home

In January, the 58-year-oldasked the High Courtto declare that any doctor who killed him with his consent would not be charged with murder. He argued the law hindered his right to "private and family life" on the grounds that being able to choose how to die is a matter of personal autonomy.

Last week, the court rejected his request, along with the euthanasia request of another man with locked-in syndrome, a decision that Nicklinson said had left him "devastated and heartbroken."

"I am saddened that the law wants to condemn me to a life of increasing indignity and misery," he said in a statement last week, adding that he planned to appeal.

Nicklinson was a former corporate manager and rugby player who suffered a stroke in 2005 that left him unable to speak or move below his neck. He required constant care and communicated mostly by blinking, although his mind had remained unaffected and his condition was not terminal. He had previously described his life as "a living nightmare."

One of his daughters said on her father's Twitter account that he died "peacefully this morning of natural causes."

Shortly after she tweeted, "Before he died, he asked us to tweet: 'Goodbye world the time has come, I had some fun.'"

His family said later that he died of pneumonia.

Police said they would not be investigating Nicklinson's death. "We can confirm he passed away," a police spokesman said on customary condition of anonymity. "His death certificate has been signed by a doctor, so it is not a matter for Wiltshire Police or the coroner."

Saimo Chahal, Nicklinson's lawyer, said his health had deteriorated recently and that he was in "a great deal of physical pain and discomfort."

Nicklinson had said that even if he were granted the right to die, he would not want to be killed immediately, but just wanted to know that the option existed.

Experts weren't sure what impact, if any, his death might have on the ongoing euthanasia debate in Britain.

Penney Lewis, a law professor at King's College London, said previous deaths of euthanasia advocates didn't have any effect on changing laws to allow the practice.

"The evidence seems to be that parliaments are not galvanized into action by the deaths of those who have been fighting for (euthanasia) legalization," she said in an email. Nicklinson "was so distressed by the High Court decision, it is sad to think he died while still absorbing that."

Nicklinson had refused since 2007 to take any life-prolonging drugs recommended by doctors, including heart drugs or blood thinners. His wife, Jane, a trained nurse, had said he could be at risk of another stroke or a heart attack.

  • CBS News Staff

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