The Right to Life; The Right to End It [Video]

It’s your life. But is it yours to end?

This was previously published on New Plateaus.

A difficult, but thought-provoking issue is the case of Englishman, Tony Nicklinson. The 57-year-old suffered a stroke in 2005 and has lost all ability to move except for some facial motion–including his eyes. And therein lies his only freedom, and his wish?

To be able to choose death.

First the technical: Nicklinson is able to communicate via his eyes because of a computer whose cursor can follow his eyes and his blinks. As such, he’s using the medium, Twitter, to reach out to the world. His profile has garnered an impressive 40,000+ followers–which, in case you don’t know, is a lot. You can see it here:

And I’d suggest you do—even if you’re not into Twitter—because the ability to view these bits and pieces of dialogue coming straight from the horse’s mouth is fascinating. AND, if you do tweet, he seems great about answering questions coming his way, so it’s simple for you communicate with a guy across the ocean who can only blink his eyes!

Unfortunately, technology doesn’t go far enough. While there are an increasing number of ailments that medical technology can solve or improve, there are so many that we’re simply stuck with.

As such, here’s Tony:

wrote back in May about how technology can solve the world’s problems and eradicate the need for applicable law. My example was the legal interference of selling human organs and how these laws might be moot one day as we’re now cultivating organs artificially. (One doesn’t need a law forbidding selling one’s kidney if we can simply grow one.)

And in the case of Tony Nicklinson, it’s my hope we can find answers to his and other physical handicaps to make life for the sufferers enjoyable. Technology, then, will preempt the desire for this man to want to end his life, reducing the need for law to shape these decisions for us.

Ironically, technology has first taken the opposite role: not as facilitator of a good life, but as a megaphone for Tony to express his desire to end his.

So the debate about suicide—and a physician’s right to assist in it—will continue indefinitely. This is a sad story, but one we shouldn’t shy away from because it allows us the chance to put ourselves in his shoes and be grateful we’re able to stand in ours.

A more detailed run-down of this story can be found here at


Read more on The Good Life.

—Photo credit:  jurvetson/Flickr

About Brandon Ferdig

Brandon Ferdig is writer from Minneapolis, MN. He shares his personal growth pieces, human interest stories, and commentary at his blog. He is currently writing a book titled New Plateaus in China, a compilation of travelogue, personal experience, human interest, and social observations from China. You can follow Brandon on Twitter @brandonferdig.


  1. Adsum Ozar says:

    When Mr. Nicklinson was a healthy, productive member of society no one seemed to care what he did as long as he followed the law and customs of our society, correct? He could have practiced things out of the ordinary, things somewhat edgy by society’s conventional standards and he would still be considered a responsible citizen and a “normal” individual. If he fell ill, it was his responsibility to take care of himself by tapping into the insurance he paid for as the responsible citizen society expected him to be. No one other than family and friends would care to find out how he was doing, and what steps he was taking to get better as well as lending a hand if necessary. But Mr. Nicklinson happens to be in a situation that is rather sensitive for some of us to contemplate, and because of it perhaps some of us have nothing to contribute to his predicament other than our deep sentiments and beliefs. I happen to think this is not a complicated matter at all. We are born, we live, we die. The living part in the middle is what we owe to ourselves, our families, and because we cannot really get away from it society in the end. He is lucid and able to communicate his wishes, and if euthanasia is what he seeks and needs at this point of his life – he deserves the respect and accommodation any one of us would like to have if our lives were subjected to such a torturous state. This is clearly not a lightly taken decision, and I can only hope to have the courage and consider such a path if my life was to become what his is now. God bless him

  2. While I would never suggest it be exercised lightly, of course we have a right to end our own lives. If I were terminally ill, by what justification could anyone tell me I can’t end my life? Hell, if I were healthy but simply didn’t want to live any more, how is that anyone’s decision but my own?

    That this is even controversial is not indicative of an ethical dilemma but a sign that we have more growing to do as a society as far as this issue is concerned. This is an unfortunate vestige of the fear of the Sky God that we are ever so slowly outgrowing.

  3. I don’t think he has the right to demand anyone to end his life for him, not even his next of kin.

    • Adsum Ozar says:

      I don’t think you have the right to deny him his demand. His next of kin might have the compassion for him as well as the knowledge to see that what he’s asking for is what he needs. If you’re going to make such a definitive statement it would be nice to find out your reasoning behind it.

  4. In cases where there are resources such as counceling, therapies, or support groups to tackle key issues as to why people wish to commit suicide, I would say: No, some people shouldn’t be given the right to end their lives (legally, at least–is it “illegal” to attempt or commit suicide?).

    In this case, however, Mr. Nicklinson is condemned as a prisoner to his idle body. Most people don’t live like this and nobody wants to. If Mr. Nicklinson is intelligent enough to communicate on twitter and express what he’s going through, he’s intelligent enough to make a well-informed decision to end his life.

    This is hard because it raises two questions that I don’t, and probably need, answers to: (1) At what point does someone gain or lose the right to end their life, and (2) Who are we (anyone assessing someone contemplating suicide) to grant or revoke said right?

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