Is there a future for Legal Euthanasia in Europe?

Euthanasia is a very touchy subject. Euthanasia and assisted suicide are illegal in Britain, as is the case in most of Europe. However, one man now seeks to challenge and change this law. Tony Nickilson, a 57 year old male from Britain is a stoke victim who is paralyzed from the neck down, in what is known as “locked in syndrome.”  Mr. Nickilson is only able to communicate by blinking and nodding to choose letters from an electronic screen.

On Monday, Nickilson’s lawyers argued for permission to seek judicial rulings on three arguments  (two under human rights legislation and one under common law) to allow a doctor to “terminate or assist the termination” of Mr. Nickilson’s life, without facing murder charges, as would be the case under current law.  Justice William Charles  allowed the case to proceed on two of three arguments that Nickilson’s lawyers had prepared.

Mr. Nickilson’s lawyers are arguing the defense of “necessity.” Additionally, Justice Charles said that under human rights legislation, Nickilson could claim that current laws are “incompatible with Mr. Nicklinson’s right to respect for private life.”

In a statement I find to be quite controversial, Mr. Nickilson’s wife said, “Nothing is going to get better…. the only way to relieve Tony’s suffering will be to kill him. There is absolutely nothing else that can be done for him.”

It seems surprising to me that the Judge has even let the case get this far. With such a strong position on euthanasia and assisted suicide in Europe, it seems contrary to established law that Justice Charles has even entertained the thought of letting this lawsuit progress.

Do you think Mr. Nickilson stands a chance at successfully challenging the laws as they currently stand? Do the laws on euthanasia and assisted suicide need to be reformed?



  1. I do not think that Mr. Nickilson will be successful in his challenge of the current laws on euthanasia and assisted suicide. I think that allowing for euthanasia would just open up the door for a massive controversy because it is not an easy subject to deal with. It would take an overhaul of the current law to establish a strong law that would balance protection of human life with respect for patient’s personal choices. I also think that the problem with allowing euthanasia would be the regulations necessary to monitor these “killings”. Who would determine under what circumstances euthanasia and assisted suicide would be allowed? Do they just let any patient with any injury decide they want to end their life? Do they only allow those with terminal illnesses to make the life ending decision? I do not think there are any easy answers to these questions, and there seems to be a reason why the law is what it is.

  2. While I don’t think Mr. Nickilson’s case will be successful, I can certainly understand what severely paralyzed people are asking for when they want assisted suicide. I can still remember the first time I saw the movie “Mar Adentro” (Translation: The Sea Inside), about Ramon Sampedro (played by Javier Bardem before he became big in America). Sampedro became quadriplegic following a diving accident. He was unable to feed himself, clothe himself, or do anything else that the rest of us take for granted. His life was essentially reduced to a single bed, placed in a bedroom, and he was forced to rely on others for absolutely everything he needed. Sampedro did not like the way he lived, and felt that it would be better if her were dead. I can’t say I blame him – I’m not sure what I would do if I literally could not do anything myself and had to have constant care. Maybe I would feel differently and maybe I wouldn’t. Sampedro fought (and lost) for his right to euthanasia, although he eventually died of cyanide poisoning, which he received through the help of several people in his life.

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