If you wanted to die but needed the assistance of someone to do it for you, is that still your right? Or are you asking someone to commit murder?
Turn on the television here in the UK or pick up a national tabloid and there is much controversy over a gentleman by the name of Tony Nicklinson.
Mister Nicklinson wants to die.
His reasons are his apparent lack of decent lifestyle, caused by a devastating stroke back in 2005 that left him completely paralysed. His mental state remains perfectly intact, even though he has to communicate via eye movements or a few shallow nods.
Tony is married and no doubt his hopes of recovery from his devastating paralysis are nil. It takes almost two minutes for him to write a sentence via a special piece of computer equipment that tracks his eye movements. Once he sees a word he wants typing, he blinks.
But for him it is an awful and agonising state of affairs. No doubt he loves his wife very much and this gentleman must sit there and only wish he could hold his wife in his arms again and tell her he loves her.
So Tony made the heart wrenching plea to doctors to administer a lethal injection that would take his own life. Locked in a prison that is his own body, this man’s mind is alert to his plight and now wishes to end the suffering for himself and that of his loved one.
Tony Nicklinson and his wife
However, the case will be heard during a high court decision in the UK which will hear his argument for his right to end his own life. The idea of euthanasia is hotly debated in many countries in the world. Such decisions to turn off a life support machine for patients in coma’s are usually based solely on medical reasons. So much so that the mind is dead and only the heart pumps.
So the difference here is that Mister Nicklinson’s mind is alert. But it is his life, he argues and the pain and suffering has become too much. Human rights issues will be hotly debated during what no doubt will be a heated exchange of what is morally and ethically allowed.
Tony cannot take a lethal drink to kill himself. Therefore he cannot commit suicide. What he must do is request a doctor to administer the fatal cocktail.
But does this constitute murder on the doctor’s behalf?
What doctor will step forward to carry out such an act, knowing full well this man, whilst paralysed from the neck down, still possesses the ability to communicate in a clear way via a computer generated voice?
Professor Stephen Hawking
People will think of Professor Stephen Hawking – that brilliant physicist who communicates with success whilst crippled in a wheelchair.
It will yet again open up a can or worms as legal teams face each other.
Tony explains via his computer generated voice that life is becoming much more difficult every day. For him he has lived is life as far as he possibly can. The suffering has become too much and the effort required to care for him is becoming increasingly unbearable.
He believes he has the right to die should he request that – which he has.
As loved ones stand by Tony as best they can, no doubt they have a twisted sense of betrayal and loyalty to this man and a feeling of hopelessness as they struggle to accept his request to end his life. For here beats the heart of a man who is in medical terms “alert and alive”, yet cannot escape the stillness of his own body.
It is a heart wrenching debate for all those concerned, least of all Tony and his wife. No doubt much will follow whatever decision is reached when the case reaches the court.
Facing such a situation as Tony’s would be complicated and difficult to comprehend day in, day out.
We can only send our sympathies and best wishes for such a gentleman. After all, we are mere mortals and not Gods.
But does that mean we are not our own God, judge and jury when it comes to ourselves and our right to live – or die?