'Locked-in' man dies after legal bid to end life

A man left paralysed but fully conscious and aware of his predicament died Wednesday, days after losing a legal bid to end his life of "pure torture", his lawyers and family said.

Tony Nicklinson, 58, who had locked-in syndrome after suffering a stroke on a business trip to Athens in 2005, died of natural causes, his family said.

On August 16, High Court judges dismissed his legal plea for the right to die, unanimously ruling that it would be wrong to depart from a precedent that equates voluntary euthanasia with murder.

After the verdict Nicklinson broke down in tears, saying he was "devastated" by the decision.

Nicklinson's family said Wednesday that he died peacefully at their home in Melksham, western England, at 10:00 am (0900 GMT) following a rapid deterioration in his health after contracting pneumonia.

Wiltshire Police said they were not involved in dealing with the death and neither was the coroner, suggesting it was not suspicious.

"He has been visited regularly by the doctor and the doctor will be signing the death certificate," a spokesman said.

A message from Nicklinson's family on his Twitter account read: "Before he died, he asked us to tweet: 'Goodbye world the time has come, I had some fun'."

Another message read: "Thank you for your support over the years. We would appreciate some privacy at this difficult time. Love, Jane, Lauren and Beth".

Wife Jane added her own tweet, saying she had "lost the love of my life".

In a statement issued by his lawyer after the ruling last week, Nicklinson said: "I am saddened that the law wants to condemn me to a life of increasing indignity and misery."

The three judges had described the case as "deeply moving and tragic", and Nicklinson's predicament as "terrible".

But they unanimously agreed that it would be wrong for the court to depart from the long-established legal position that "voluntary euthanasia is murder, however understandable the motives may be".

They ruled the current law did not breach human rights and it was for parliament, not the courts, to decide whether it should be changed.

Nicklinson's wife Jane, standing by her tearful husband at their home last week, described the decision as "one-sided".

"You can see from Tony's reaction he's absolutely heartbroken," she said.

At the time she said they would appeal the decision. Asked what would happen if the appeal failed, she said: "Tony either has to carry on like this until he dies from natural causes or by starving himself."

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