After he suffered a stroke in 2005, Tony Nicklinson developed locked-in syndrome, a rare condition that left the middle-aged Brit fully paralyzed from the neck down. He lived on, mentally alert but wholly incapable of taking care of himself. He could not walk, feed himself or brush his own teeth. Devastated when a British court refused to allow him to commit assisted suicide, Nicklinson stopped eating or accepting fluids. He developed pneumonia, refused antibiotics, and died this past August 22, 2012.
Stroke, a major cause of death and the leading cause of adult disability, can leave victims unable to walk, talk, eat or take care of themselves. To treat stroke while it’s happening, the "clot-busting" drug tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) has been proven to save brains from damage and reduce or even completely avoid disability. Patients require a CAT-scan to assure diagnosis and the drug must be administered within 4.5 hours after onset of symptoms. In today’s medical environment, that shouldn't be an overwhelming obstacle.