Terminally ill man loses right-to-die case

Terminally ill Noel Conway loses assisting dying high court case

A terminally ill man has vowed to appeal after losing his High Court challenge against the law on assisted dying.

Noel Conway, 67, who has motor neurone disease, wanted a doctor to be allowed to prescribe a lethal dose when his health deteriorates.

Currently any doctor helping him to die would face up to 14 years in prison, but Mr Conway’s lawyers argued that the law is unfair and needs to be changed.

Mr Conway, from Shrewsbury, wanted a declaration that the Suicide Act 1961, which lays out the law on assisted dying, is incompatible with Article eight of the European Convention on Human Rights, but his case was rejected.

Mr Conway, who has been supported by campaign group Dignity in Dying, said he was “deeply disappointed” by the decision.

Unbearable suffering

“The experiences of those who are terminally ill need to be heard,” he said. “As I approach the end of my life, I face unbearable suffering and the possibility of a traumatic, drawn-out death.”

There is no cure for motor neurone disease and Mr Conway wanted the right to bring about his own death in the UK with medical assistance while he is still physically able to do so, rather than have to travel to a country such as Switzerland, where assisted dying is legal.

Mr Conway, who his lawyers said has less than six months to live, wanted control over his own death, and wanted to be able to enlist assistance from the medical profession to bring about a “peaceful and dignified” end to his life, rather than just awaiting it while his condition deteriorates.

Those who support the existing legislation argue that it serves to protect the weak and vulnerable from being exploited or coerced.

Vulnerable people

Peter Saunders, from the Care Not Killing Alliance, said that the decision was the right one “because of the concern that vulnerable people might be exploited or abused by those who have a financial or emotional interest”.

Mr Conway’s legal team set out strict criteria and clear potential safeguards to protect vulnerable people from any abuse of the system, but all three judges failed to rule in his favour. In 2015 MPs rejected proposals to allow assisted dying in England and Wales, in their first vote on the issue in almost 20 years.


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