herald

Friday 15 December 2017

Why Tony's fighting for death

let our dad die (c4) euro 2012 / apres match (rte2)

TONY Nicklinson wants a doctor to end his life, and to be able to do it without fear of going to prison for murder. If, that is, you can call what he's currently enduring "life".

It's more like a living nightmare, what should be a split- second between life and death, cruelly stretched to what could be another 20 or 30 agonising years. Tony, the subject of the powerful and provocative Let Our Dad Die, has locked-in syndrome.

On a business trip to Athens seven years ago, he suffered a catastrophic stroke that left his body paralysed but his brain unaffected.

The only things Tony (58) still has control over are his thoughts and his eyes, which he uses to activate a special computer keyboard that allows him to make those thoughts known via an electronic voice box.

By all accounts Tony, a businessman whose job took him all over the world (the family had settled in Dubai), used to be the life and soul of the party.

"He was fun and loved and was an absolute show-off," said his wife and full-time carer Jean, speaking in the inevitable past tense.

"Everybody loved him, everybody knew about him," added daughter Beth. "He made sure of that."

"He was a bit of a wally, to be honest," said another daughter, Lauren, in that joshing, affectionate way only daddy's girls are allowed to get away with.

Tony and his family want the law changed to allow people like him to pick the moment to end their life with the help of a doctor. A four-day hearing on the matter began at London's High Court this morning.

Jean was blunt: "It's not assisted suicide, it's murder." She acknowledges that plenty of people with conditions worse than Tony's (although personally, I can't imagine anything worse) are living fulfilled lives.

"But it's not for Tony," she said. "I don't think life should be forced upon someone if they don't want it."

Not everyone agrees. Lord Falconer, who visited Tony, believes some terminally ill people should be allowed to end their own lives. But Tony, technically, is not terminally ill.

"We shouldn't cross the line and say that people can kill other people," said Falconer.

"What would you suggest I do?" Tony asked him. Falconer, flustered, made a lame joke about Tony being such a good advocate that he should become a lawyer.

Things grew more heated between Tony and Kevin Fitzpatrick, a wheelchair-user, disability rights campaigner and anti-euthanasia activist, who claims that if the law is changed, it will open the floodgates to disabled people being killed by others at will -- a spurious argument tinged with hysteria.

"People like you are condemning me to a slow and painful death," Tony told him.

"I'm not condemning you to anything," said Fitzpatrick, who blithely tried to equate his own disability with Tony's (there's no comparison). "I'm not responsible for the fact that you had a stroke."

"What you are saying is ridiculous," said Tony. "I wish I could speak, so I could respond properly."

Fitzpatrick suggested it wasn't nice to be labelled ridiculous. But it's better than being trapped in a coffin of your own flesh and blood.

"Uninhibited, authentic, imaginative footballers who are well up for it -- THAT'S what we need!" said Eamon Dunphy, joyously, after Ireland's 2-0 defeat to Italy.

Sadly, Eamon wasn't talking about the valiant but doomed performance we'd just seen, but reacting to a montage of clips featuring a clutch of fine young players, including Seamus Coleman and Wes Hoolahan, who never got so much as a sniff of Trapattoni's squad.

"I'm quite depressed," said the real John Giles, echoing the feelings of a nation.

Over on Apres Match, the alternative Dunphy, Brady and O'Herlihy were echoing the real Giles by engaging in a weepy rendition of I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow.

Better than The Fields of Athenry any day. And funnier. God -- if there is one, and I have my doubts -- knows we need a laugh.



let our dad die HHHHI euro 2012/apres match HHHHH

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