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MS Activist John Hicklenton Ends Life at Euthanasia Clinic

MS Activist John Hicklenton Ends Life at Euthanasia Clinic

Make no mistake about it. John Hicklenton triumphed over multiple sclerosis. I say this in spite of the fact that he ended his own life because of it.

Mr. Hicklenton, a graphic artist known for his illustrations, most notably, Judge Dredd comics, struggled with the ravages of MS for a decade. A resident of Brighton, East Sussex, U.K., he passed away in a Swiss assisted suicide clinic on March 19 at the age of 42.

His 2008 award-winning documentary, Here’s Johnny, chronicled his life with MS and how he turned to drawing for respite. The Telegraph U.K. quotes Mr. Hicklenton as saying “Drawing is my walking now, I run with it, I fly with it. It’s keeping me alive. I have a thing with it. I can’t wait to get a piece of paper with a pen because it’s what I can control. I haven’t got MS when I’m looking at my pictures and I haven’t got it when I’m drawing them either. It gives me an ability to express that fear.”

His was not a mild course of the disease. Johnny lived with a particularly brutal progressive form of MS, referring to it as “this terrorist illness,” yet refusing to yield to bitterness. Feeling somewhat abandoned by the medical establishment, he struggled to bring attention to the misunderstood neurological condition. He boldly used his fame to invite the world to observe the bleak realities of his life.

This quote speaks volumes, and is something most of us with MS can relate to, at least to a certain extent: “Yes, I could walk 500 yards and I could fake a normal walk, but it was just agony. You could never take the tension out of my face. To you, that is a few cobbles, a bit of uneven surface and a couple of gates. To me that is the ninth circle of f***ing Hades and pain.”

Euthanasia was something he planned on long ago in anticipation of the worst. It was the only escape from what he called torture. His plan was to persevere until he could no longer and then take control, to “go” his way. Knowing that he had this final plan actually gave him the strength to go on longer.

“I don’t like the term ‘committing suicide,’” he said. “It makes it sound like a crime. I think taking your own life is a very brave thing to do.” His death was described as a peaceful one.

However you feel about assisted suicide, Mr. Hicklenton was a brave man, one who lived life to its fullest potential and faced death with dignity. I don’t toss around the word hero lightly, but Johnny Hicklenton qualifies. May he rest in peace.

Writer Ann Pietrangelo embraces the concept of personal responsibility for health and wellness. As a person living with multiple sclerosis, she combines a healthy lifestyle and education with modern medicine, and seeks to provide information and support to others. She is a regular contributor to Care2 Causes. Follow on Twitter @AnnPietrangelo

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Ann Pietrangelo

Ann Pietrangelo is the author of No More Secs! Living, Laughing & Loving Despite Multiple Sclerosis and Catch That Look: Living, Laughing & Loving Despite Triple-Negative Breast Cancer. She is a freelance writer and member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. Follow on Twitter @AnnPietrangelo

88 comments

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4:24PM PDT on Aug 6, 2013

I've got ms... you can't check out with suicide in america because insurances don't pay on suicides. I have 3 kids still in the home and a wonderful wife... I will suffer until the bitter end if it means security for them after I am gone.

8:24AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

So very sad when one is attacked by a horrific disease and there is no cure. It is not for me to judge others who make this decision as it is a difficult one. It can only be the person involved who has a sound mind who can make this decision, not forced into it by uncaring people.

There are many pros and cons and of course some who are disabled sometimes fear they could be forced into this. However, if the legal system has proper checks and balances and it is the person's decision arrived at without pressure or actions on the part of another who has other interests at heart, then it must be a decision of the individual involved.

At some point in time the agonizing pain and quality of life becomes unbearable and it seems like torture to keep someone alive if they are crying out for an alternative. It is not up to me to decide what another individual wants when faced with this decision. Only they can know what is or is not tolerable in a situation involved a terminal illness.

Hopefully, John Hicklenton is at peace, his new journey taking him to whatever awaits him when we take our final journey. May it be beautiful.

6:48AM PDT on Jul 12, 2012

Sorry for the triple comment. The page froze, so I had to refresh it. :-(

6:47AM PDT on Jul 12, 2012

Well said, Dale.

6:47AM PDT on Jul 12, 2012

Well said, Dale.

6:47AM PDT on Jul 12, 2012

Well said, Dale.

6:46AM PDT on Jul 12, 2012

very sad

6:31AM PDT on Jul 7, 2012

What a great story! I too have MS, and absolutely no family members still around. My husband is 21 years older than I am, so probably will go before I do. Which means I'm researching death with dignity and making plans for whenever I'm finally helpless. Thanks for sharing this.

6:41AM PDT on Apr 7, 2011

Thanks for the article.

1:16PM PDT on Apr 6, 2011

From whay I have seen of Dignitas over here in the UK they do have strict critera, I think they used to video,don't know if they still do, what your wishes are and taking the medication, but that is all,you are then left with your family in a private apartment, the video is handed over to the Swiss police afterwards with the paper work who also show great dignity. I sympathise with Johnny's family as it must have been so hard on them

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