The paralyzed man who tweets with his eyes, and wants to die
A British man will plead with a court to argue that he should be allowed to legally end his life — but he's taking to Twitter first, using his eyes to send messages
Tony Nicklinson, a 57-year-old former rugby player from the U.K., is completely paralyzed and would like to die. Next week he and his family are set to meet with the High Court to argue that a doctor should be allowed to lawfully end his life and self-described "indignity." His unique case has attracted a fair amount of media attention abroad, and now, he is tweeting his point of view for the first time ever. Here, a concise guide to one man's contentious crusade:
How was Nicklinson paralyzed?In 2005, while on a business trip in Athens, he suffered a crippling stroke that left his entire body paralyzed except for his eyes. "I cannot scratch if I itch, I cannot pick my nose if it is blocked," he says. "And I can only eat if I am fed like a baby — only I won't grow out of it, unlike the baby." The only way for him to communicate with the outside world is to use a special computer that tracks his eye movements, allowing him to type on a digital keyboard. (Watch a video below.)
So now he's tweeting?He is. Under the handle @TonyNicklinson, the self-described "Twitter novice" sent out his first tweet on June 13, which reads: "Hello world. I am tony nicklinson, I have locked-in syndrome and this is my first ever tweet. #tony." In less than 24 hours, he'd accumulated almost 2,500 followers. As of June 18, he has over 15,000.
Why is he tweeting?He was persuaded to join the social network "to help him communicate with a broader audience and follow and join debates," says John Bingham at Britain's Telegraph. "He has never been one to be shy about what he says, this is something where he can do that," says his wife. She stands by his decision, and thinks that using the site might be good for him.
Does he still want to die?Not right away. Nicklinson plans on asking judges to grant a doctor legal exception to end his life should he choose to do so at a later time. The father of two adult daughters tells the BBC that life the past seven years has been "dull, miserable, demeaning, undignified, and intolerable." He and his family are scheduled to make their appeal on Monday, but now his ordeal will be catalogued by major media outlets across Britain, as well as tracked by his thousands of new followers on Twitter.
Take a look: