Locked-in syndrome: what do you want to ask Tony Nicklinson?
Hello world. I am tony nicklinson, I have locked-in syndrome and this is my first ever tweet.
— TonyNicklinson (@TonyNicklinson)
That was how Tony Nicklinson, 57, who had a massive stroke in 2005 and now suffers from locked-in-syndrome, announced he had joined Twitter last week. Channel 4 filmed him and by Sunday night the film clip had been seen over 70,000 times and Tony - 16 tweets in - had over 13,000 followers on Twitter.
This week, Tony's family and legal team will go to the high court and argue on his behalf that a doctor should be allowed to lawfully end his life at the time of Tony's choosing. Tony – previously highly active and sociable – has described his life as "dull, miserable, demeaning, undignified and intolerable".
Locked-in syndrome is where a patient is mentally aware but is paralysed and has no voluntary muscle movement apart from being able to move their eyes. Tony composes his tweets, and emails, via specially adapted software. It allows a program to read his eye movement when he looks at an alphabet on screen, and then converts these into words.
Locked-in-syndrome relates to a physical condition but when one reads Tony's tweets or emails there is nothing locked-in about them. They are cogent, witty, logical and as free to roam, to dispute, to describe, and to entertain as the next person's. Intellectually, Tony is not locked-in.
All this week we will be interviewing Tony via Twitter. Next Sunday we will publish a piece in the Observer based, in part, on the Twitter exchanges, but based too on a discussion of the fundamental issues that lie at the heart of his case in the high court this week.
Needless to say, there are profound moral, ethical and medical issues to be debated. We want to air some of these publicly with Tony.
It will begin on Monday at noon (before the case takes place on Tuesday and Wednesday) and will continue afterwards to assess reaction – both his, and the public's. This will give Tony, and others, a chance to participate in a public discussion about delicate and fundamental issues of life and death, of pain and suffering, and of love and living.
Anyone can participate. Elizabeth Day (), our feature writer, will be posing questions to Tony (). Tony's responses will not be restricted to a single tweet. He'll decide how and at what length he responds and over how many tweets. Elizabeth will also take account of other views and engage others in this exchange – since that is the whole point. Tony has a voice in this debate, and so do you.
Of course, we want to investigate the essential issues at the heart of this case. We want to debate Tony's wish to be able to call on a doctor to end his life at a time of his choosing. We want to tease out the moral and ethical dilemmas involved. For the piece in the newspaper next Sunday we will also speak to his family – his wife and daughters, who support his case. We will talk to philosophers, doctors and politicians. Some of these people will doubtless engage in the debate on Twitter.
But in addition to these fundamental issues, we also want to ask how Tony's presence on Twitter affects – if at all – people's views about the issues his case raises.
Will reading his tweets change their perception of what locked-in syndrome means? Will this insight into Tony make people more or less tolerant of his wishes? Tony is locked in physically, not at all intellectually. Does this weaken or strengthen his case to control the timing of his death in your eyes?
People may arrive at one conclusion after seeing footage of Tony (helpless, dependent and, according to himself, "demeaned and undignified"). They may arrive at a very different one when they read his tweets, and see a rational, logical mind at work. It may strengthen their view that this is a course of action that Tony should willingly, assertively and knowingly be allowed to take.
Or it might cause people to implore Tony to prolong this robust, healthy intellectual aspect of his life. And how will Tony feel about the possibilities that Twitter affords him to engage, much as anyone else, in this and countless other debates. A keen rugby fan, will Tony find enjoyment, passion and purpose in healthy exchanges on this and many other topics via this and other social media?
And do any of us really matter in this debate? We have a say, but how far should our remit run? It is Tony who is living this life. A decision such as this is bound to generate discussion, and quite properly. That is the discussion we want to facilitate.
Clearly there are fears that a judgment might set a precedent and hand the act of death to a third party with all of the reasonable fears that may ensue from allowing someone else to enact the final act. This is different from the issues raised by assisted suicide since Tony can not physically kill himself; in his case, someone else has to carry that out.
His wife argues that this is not about taking rights away from disabled people, but rather it is about handing back their rights. And then they can decide. Isn't that their right? Suicide is a brutal act. But it is impossible to deny people the possibility of carrying it out. In a small number of cases people choose to end their lives – with horrific consequences for their friends and family. Tony's family support his wish to control the timing of his death, should life become even less tolerable than it already is. Is it ever a logical decision to end your life – or is it always an illogical one? Who owns our lives, and our deaths?
Tony – with the full support of his wife and daughters - has agreed to this week-long exchange so that the public can join that conversation.
• The exchange between and will begin on Twitter at noon on Monday. Anyone wanting to join the conversation can use the hashtag .
Your questions answered
In the storify below you can see Tony Nicklinson's answers to your questions as the interview played out each day. You can still put your question to Tony before Friday 22 June.
[Please note: this column is put together using Storify, which does not work on our mobile site and apps. If nothing loads below this paragraph, or use the desktop version of the site.]
休·格兰特的律师大卫·舍伯恩和电子艺游官方网站的律师卡琳·帕特里·霍斯金斯（Carine Patry Hoskins）：关于他们的关系的故事是否损害了莱维森？ 照片：PA Rob Wilson：'Leveson的回应令人担忧' 这种正义不仅必须完成，而且必须被视为已经完成，这是我们正义制度的公理
通过电子邮件获取最大的皇室故事 订阅 请参阅我们的 感谢您订阅 我们有更多新闻通讯 看看我们的 无法订阅，请稍后重试 无效的电子邮件 随着世界等待着他和梅根马克尔的第一个孩子的诞生，电子艺游官方网址王子缩短了他计划前往荷兰的行程
通过电子邮件获取最大的明星故事 订阅 请参阅我们的 感谢您订阅 我们有更多新闻通讯 看看我们的 无法订阅，请稍后重试 无效的电子邮件 珍妮弗安妮斯顿和电子艺游官方网址2000年的夕阳婚礼是如此私密的事件，他们甚至关闭了在马里布悬崖顶部位置的空域