Charles Cowling


Since a stroke six years ago Tony Nicklinson’s life has been, in his own words, ‘dull, miserable, demeaning, undignified and intolerable’. Tony can only move his head and his eyes. He has locked-in syndrome. 

And now he wants to die. 

In fact, he’s demanding the same right to end his life that any able-bodied person has. But because he is physically unable to kill himself, he’s issued proceedings in the High Court asking for a declaration that it is lawful for a doctor to terminate his life, with his consent and with him making the decision with full mental capacity.

Full story here



Hat-tip to Kingfisher 


6 thoughts on “Wants out

  1. Charles Cowling

    I closed my last comment with a flip remark about martyrdom and it only struck me afterwards that the issue at the heart of this discussion is not a right to die – we all have that right now – it is the right to be helped.

    If I want to make a martyr of myself, smoke or drink myself to death, hazard my life in the army or doing dangerous sports or even take a shortcut and simply kill myself I have that right. The law will support whatever choice I make.

    No, the only people from whom the right to choose has been withdrawn are those poor trapped souls who no longer possess the power of self determination. It is these victims of illness and the advances of medical science that society insists must continue to live and suffer against their expressed wishes because no one is allowed to help them.

    It’s almost a disabilities rights issue.

    Charles Cowling
  2. Charles Cowling
    Richard Rawlinson

    Regardless of individual beliefs, the law banning assisted suicide stands in nearly every country in the world. Anyone has the right to conclude the law is an ass in this respect. Personally, I think the law’s objections to compassionate killing are valid.

    Even with strict controls in place, I disagree that it’s scaremongering to predict abuses could result from changing the legalisation. The pro-choice lobby began by advocating abortion ‘only for the life or health of the mother’, and the practice developed to ‘on demand’.

    As well as the ethical arguments (slippery slope to involuntary euthanasia; implication that some lives are worth less than others etc), there are also practical arguments.

    Allowing euthanasia could lead to less good palliative care of the terminally ill. It might undermine the commitment of doctors and nurses to saving lives. It might expose vulnerable people to pressure to end their lives.

    It’s a difficult issue with strong arguments on both sides. But laws have to preempt negative consequences.

    Charles Cowling
  3. Charles Cowling

    That we have no claim on death, or that it is not care to terminate life, are merely private beliefs not shared by all, and therefore are irrelevant in this matter.

    Law only works when it is unprejudiced, and it is not healthy or balanced to infect with our principles or beliefs – let alone our fears – the laws we make, which affect the lives of others, simply because it would offend us to see them violate our own preferences.

    Charles Cowling
  4. Charles Cowling

    Well, Richard, that’s a bit like saying that no one should have access to any number of things because they hold the possibility of being abused. Yes, we need to be very cautious in setting up a framework for new legislation, but I think the notion of a society where the ‘old and sick will be killed’ is a frightener to stifle intelligent and informed debate.

    This is a human endeavour, and you cannot have absolute control in any such matter. However, we can do our very best to put enough robust, well thought through barriers in place to sort out the genuine from the abusive, in as far as it is possible. In the hundreds of years that this law will stand, there will be instances of abuse, but you are living in a fool’s paradise if you think that there is no bending of the law as it currently stands. Life is not perfect by any means, but isn’t that what we are here for, to struggle and to use our wits as best we can?

    Of course life is not valuable only when it’s healthy. But I hope you never have to see real suffering face to face, in all its dire awfulness. For many people, intense suffering is entirely meaningless, particularly when there is no other outcome but death. To many people, there is absolutely nothing to be gained. If you wish to transform such an experience into something else, that is entirely your right, and I would support you in it. But don’t expect me or any or the people I love to suffer for your beliefs.

    Charles Cowling
  5. Charles Cowling

    I cannot for the life of me see that enabling someone to end their life when it has become intolerable will inevitably change society into one where ‘the unwanted, old and sick will be killed’.

    I worry too about these laws that say all life must be protected. However well meaning, when they are allied to medical advances that only prolong life to prolong suffering and degradation, they enshrine a sort of tyranny in which one value – life – takes precedent over all others.

    If that were right, wouldn’t even martyrdom be a sin?

    Charles Cowling
  6. Charles Cowling
    Richard Rawlinson

    Sad and complex though the ‘right to die’ issue is, I hope the law is upheld. Even when a few individual cases are moving, giving way would set a dangerous precedent whereby the unwanted old and sick will be killed.

    Life is not valuable only when it is healthy. Suffering is not meaningless. A right is a moral claim, and we don’t have a claim on death – much less does someone else: a relative, doctor or legislator.

    The man’s argument for level playing fields with able-bodied people who can commit suicide must be put in the context of laws stating all life should be protected. We do have a right to proper care. It is never ‘care’ to terminate life, even if that life is full of suffering.

    Charles Cowling

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>