So Tony Nicklinson has died. He fought for the right to have his ‘locked-in’ life terminated, but lost the case. After that, he stopped eating, and developed pneumonia, which I assume was not treated.


Such a sad, tragic story. My heart and my prayers go out to his family and indeed to all those who feel that they are up against a brick wall with nowhere to go.

It again raises the whole subject of whether euthanasia, and assisted suicide, can ever be ethically acceptable. It is a very complex subject with so much to consider, and I doubt that it’s possible to reach a conclusion on which everyone might agree.

People like Tony would never have survived in past times. He lived as long as he did by depending on the huge strides in medicine that have developed more recently. It is the job of the medical profession to save life, not destroy it.

But it brings to my mind some words of the poet Arthur Hugh Clough:

‘Thou shalt not kill; but need’st not strive
Officiously to keep alive’

from his poem ‘The Last Decalogue’.

But should that line be drawn?  And if so, where?  And who should decide?

(photo from )



  1. Yes, I understand what you’re saying. I realise that hospice can’t be for everyone and costs can be prohibitive. I would be in favour of far more initiatives like the Marie Curie nurses for cancer patients. Our experience of them has been second to none: professional, gentle, highly experienced, and remarkably flexible, they certainly eased my father’s last days.


  2. Vets have an easier time of drawing the ethical line in performing euthanasia on our pets and other animals to relieve them of pain and misery. So do we, though, it may go on a bit longer than is kinder to our pets. We make choices for so-called dumb animals, there are times when homo sapiens is dumb too, dumb about making difficult choices. It does not mean though, that HS does not deserve the care and kindness of a caring and dignified farewell at any time.

    Someone asked what ‘dignified’ means; it is what it means to the individual and those around him/her/them, living or dying, as Tony Nicklinson outlined. We hear the phrase quality of life bandied about. You could ask for a definition of that. Being qualitative, it is hard to define in black and white terms. I would say, it means many things, and above all, again, it means what it means to the individual and those close to him/her/them.


    1. Yes indeed, one person’s dignity is another’s despair.

      I appreciate your conclusion, but it makes me ask how it would be possible to come to a common mind as a society, if we allow that only individual judgement is authentic.


      1. Tony Nicklinson was not looking for common mind, he was seeking a flexibility in the law and the common mind, to protect those he loved and who loved him.

        I do not believe that the medical profession should be judge and jury on their own, a team application, just as the team discussions that go on with very many medical decisions, would not be without merit. They could act far quicker than the convolutions required to go through the Courts. There are ethics committees that judge situations every day, it is a well trodden path. There would need to be legal and medical approval for the medical profession to act. It would be vitally important that the structure does not get hijacked and hidebound by over-regulation, said to protect the professionals, (it often intrudes to maintain single political interests and nothing else) and ignore the humane and the individual who desires a death.

        While I like the idea of palliative care, where it is applied humanely, and not strictly to a tick box regime, it has to be remembered it is not everyone’s idea of a good death, for someone intent on dying.


      2. You sound like a tutor. 😉

        Yes to your first question….rather than force people to consider going overseas.

        Criteria; I quite like the Swiss approach to it.

        How would you answer your own questions?


      3. Yes, did wonder if I sounded too tutorish!

        My answers are not really answers – more, they are ongoing questions. I’m not sure it’s possible to reach hard and fast conclusions, and I would be content with guidelines, and a willingness to live with some of the questions. Having said that, it could easily become a cop-out, and I think it’s a matter of integrity to have tussled with the questions and reached some sort of modus vivendi. So: at present no, I would not wish to see assisted dying become legalised. I am a great admirer of the hospice movement and I believe that palliative care is the best way forward, having been in a profession where I have had a certain amount to do with those who are dying. But equally, as I hinted in my original posting, there is a case for saying ‘do not resuscitate’, although I’m aware that working out guidelines for this is a minefield. It is one we should have the courage to tackle, with input from all sides.


      4. Your thoughts and ideas have great merit. However, the hospice movement is not for everyone, it cannot serve everyone, and those who do ‘enjoy’ its benefits direct are usually agreeing to be beneficiaries of a wonderful development in society.

        Like all good practices, not just hospice practices, they are best delivered within the expert environment, where they can be tailored to the individual, otherwise, they are diluted practices that people fumble around with on a tick box process, where, one size can end up be forced to fit all. We know that the best is not offered to everyone, it can not be afforded. Second or third best can be the worst of outcomes. With current cut backs, the care of the sick and the dying is going to be even more problematic.


  3. We are all dependent on what we read in the media. I have as much sympathy for Tony Nicklinson as anyone however I think the family need to be left in peace.In a week most shall have found other diversions,


      1. The media are controlling this argumentEach morning I read wonderful essays ordered by the editors which remind me of my days at grammar school when given a subject onwhich to write an essay to submit as home work.The questions will always crop up and there are enough answers to keep this topic going for generations.


      2. I agree we need to make up our own minds I have done this all my life. The media’s control over its readers is not as complete as first appears.however I share your concerns..there comes a time when I realise ( many times)that my further involvement will be a waste.I have enjoyed a varied life two projects of which ended in toal failure through no fault of my own or of those who delegated the tasks to me.Sometimes there is no solution, available to humanity, to a problem;however there are enough left to fill our time !


  4. What a sad story from ‘Plantpot’
    People living in great pain should have the right to have their lives terminated but, as you say, it is fraught with problems….is the sufferer of sound mind when making this request? It’s a moralistic minefield


  5. I was moved to tears by this man’s struggle and plight. It is such a difficult subject as you say but I know I would hate to be kept alive and be totally dependant upon others.
    Many years ago when I was 20, I worked in a nursing home. I always remember an older man called Gordy. He was such fun and bore his disability well. He had had multiple strokes and only had the use of one hand. One day he asked me to make sure he would be allowed to die if he had another stroke…..of course I no such power. He did have another stroke and was actually revived in hospital. He lost the power of speech and the use of his good hand. I remember feeding him and to this day I can remember those tortured, haunted eyes. He should have been allowed to die, as he wished.xxxxxx


    1. That is awful, Plantpot. Really terrible. Poor Gordy – and poor you, as well. I believe these days it’s possible to ask the medical staff in the hospital to have ‘do not resuscitate’ written on a patient’s case notes – but I need to check that out. I know that’s what my mother wanted.


      1. I think that is the case now Gilly…..thankfully. It is such a complex area and there are some who could exploit euthanasia if it became legal….ie bump off an elderly relative.

        I think I would like the choice if I was beyond help and life was hopeless and tortored to end it. A total minefield though.xxxxx


      2. I do think there’s a place for saying ‘enough’. I know my Dad, who had cancer, reached the point where the medical professionals told him and us that there was nothing more they could do, other than palliative care. He was upset at first, but being a person of deep faith he came round to accepting it calmly. It was very dignified …


      3. I know, but so often death happens when we aren’t looking … now I’m retired I’m very conscious that we never know what’s round the corner |-|


      1. Yes, that’s what I was asking: is there a line to be drawn between ‘killing’ which is a crime, and ‘not officiously keeping someone alive’? And if there is such a line, where should it be drawn, and who should decide?


      2. ‘Society’….’Community’….’The Corpus of People’…have ‘drawn lines’ for centuries….
        Our biggest problem lies more with a plethora of vested interests….
        One pleads for fairness……which seems to be patently absent from Our Society…..:roll:


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