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Right-to-die application hearing cut down to one day

The hearing in the right-to-die application brought by locked-in syndrome sufferer Tony Nicklinson has concluded after only one day following a counter application by the Ministry of Justice that the case should be struck out.

10 February 2012

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Mr Nicklinson, who is paralysed from the neck down and unable to speak as a result of a stroke, applied to the High Court for a declaration that a doctor should be allowed to help him die without the risk of being prosecuted for murder.

The case was initially listed for one day (8 February) following an initial one-day hearing last month. This was then extended by a further day (9 February) but the case concluded early after the judge was satisfied he had heard both side’s arguments.

The government’s position is that the declaration sought for is not one a court could grant in law. “Any change to the law in this emotive and contentious area is an issue of individual conscience and a matter for parliament to decide rather than government policy,” said a Ministry of Justice spokesperson.

Judgment has been reserved and is expected to be handed down in two to three weeks.

The case could then proceed to an examination of the application but only if Mr Justice Charles accepts Mr Nicklinson’s argument that the court has jurisdiction to make the kind of declaration he is seeking.

Tony Nicklinson, 57, had a stroke in 2005 while working as a corporate manager for a civil engineering company in Dubai.

Now paralysed from the neck down he communicates by using eye-blink technology with a computer that responds to eye movement.

He has described his existence as “dull, miserable, demeaning, undignified and intolerable” and he would not be able to take his own life unaided.

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