Tony Nicklinson obituary: a campaigner who sought and lost the right to die 'with dignity'

Locked-in syndrome sufferer Tony Nicklinson, who last week lost his High Court battle for the legal right to end his life when he chooses with a doctor's help, has died from natural causes.

In a brief statement, his lawyers said 58-year-old Mr Nicklinson, from Melksham, Trowbridge, passed away at approximately 10am on Wednesday morning at home. Wiltshire police have said there are no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death and they will not be investigating.

Before he died, he asked his family to send a message through Twitter: "Goodbye world the time has come, I had some fun".

Tony NicklinsonEmma Hallett, PA Wire

'Devastated and heartbroken'

Mr Nicklinson was left "devastated and heartbroken" after losing his High Court battle for the legal right to end his life when he chooses with a doctor's help. His wife, Jane, had described the decision as "one-sided".

The pair had planned to appeal against the decision and hoped they would be able to organise a hearing before the end of the year.

Tony Nicklinson had been left paralysed by a catastrophic stroke while on a business trip to Athens in 2005. The High Court heard that he had been told his existence of "pure torture" could continue - if a doctor could not help end it - for another 20 years or more.

But Lord Justice Toulson, Mr Justice Royce and Mrs Justice Macur, while expressing deep sympathy for their plight, 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".

Refusing the stricken men judicial review, they agreed that the current law did not breach human rights and it was for Parliament, not the courts, to decide whether it should be changed. Any changes would need "the most carefully structured safeguards which only Parliament can deliver".

'Like being buried alive'

Before suffering a stroke Mr Nicklinson was a rugby player and enjoyed an active lifestyle. He described his life since 2005 as "like being buried alive".

The stroke destroyed most of his brain stem and resulted in him suffering locked-in syndrome. The condition paralysed all his body's voluntary muscles, but left his brain still functioning. Mr Nicklinson was fully mentally aware but could only move his eyes and eyelids. He could not talk, feed or clean himself and needed assistance with going to the toilet.

In January 2012 Mr Nicklinson applied to the High Court for a ruling that any doctor who helped him die would not be charged with murder. In March his application for a hearing was approved, and the case began in June.

It was the first right-to-die case of its kind in a British court. In his statement to the court, Mr Nicklinson described life with locked-in syndrome.

"It left me paralysed below the neck and unable to speak. I need help in almost every aspect of my life. I cannot scratch if I itch, I cannot pick my nose if it is blocked and I can only eat if I am fed like a baby - only I won't grow out of it, unlike the baby. I have no privacy or dignity left.

"I am fed up with my life and don't want to spend the next 20 years or so like this.

'I don't need help or protection from death'

He argued: "I'm not depressed so do not need counselling. I have had over six years to think about my future and it does not look good.

"By all means protect the vulnerable. By vulnerable I mean those who cannot make decisions for themselves just don't include me. I am not vulnerable, I don't need help or protection from death or those who would help me. If the legal consequences were not so huge i.e. life imprisonment, perhaps I could get someone to help me. As things stand, I can't get help.

"Also, why should I be denied a right, the right to die of my own choosing when able bodied people have that right and only my disability prevents me from exercising that right?"

Mr Nicklinson also admitted that if he had his time again he would not phone the ambulance that ultimately saved his life. He argued that he chose life at that point, but he would not have done that if he knew then what he knew now. He also added that having initially chosen life, he should now be allowed to choose death.

"If I had my time again, and knew then what I know now, I would not have called the ambulance but let nature take its course.

"What I object to is having my right to choose taken away from me after I had been saved. It seems to me that if my right to choose life or death at the time of initial crisis is reasonably taken away it is only fair to have the right to choose back when one gets over the initial crisis and have time to reflect."

'Hello world... this is my first ever tweet'

At the same time as the hearing, Tony Nicklinson joined Twitter. His first tweet read: "Hello world. I am tony nicklinson, I have locked-in syndrome and this is my first ever tweet. #tony".

Mr Nicklinson used a computer system that tracked his blinks and eye movements and translated his thoughts into written words. He is thought to be the first person to have tweeted using his eyelids.

He soon attracted thousands of followers, and received comments from people both supporting and opposing his stance. In response Mr Nicklinson tweeted: "People want to know if I will change my mind because of Twitter. Let's hear the judgement first and maybe I'll tell you.#tony".

After news of his death had broken, Mr Nicklinson's family used his Twitter account to thank people for their support over the years, and to ask for "some privacy at this difficult time".