Terminally ill grandfather loses right-to-die case

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Oct 06, 2017
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Noel Conway was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2014

Tom Pilston for The Times

A man who feels “entombed” by a terminal illness has lost his High Court battle for “choice at the end of life”, but has pledged to take his fight on to the appeal courts.

Noel Conway, 67, a grandfather and retired lecturer from Shrewsbury, seeks to challenge the law on assisted dying so that he can have the option of a “swift and dignified” end to his life when he chooses.

Conway was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in November 2014. He is not expected to live beyond 12 months.

He wanted a declaration that the Suicide Act 1961 was incompatible with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which relates to respect for private and family life, and Article 14, which protects against discrimination.

But in the High Court in London yesterday Lord Justice Sales, Mrs Justice Whipple and Mr Justice Garnham rejected his case, which had the support of Humanists UK and Dignity in Dying but was opposed by the justice secretary, David Lidington, and the lobby group Care Not Killing.

Conway, who was not present for the ruling, said: “I am deeply disappointed by today’s judgment and fully intend to appeal it. The experiences of those who are terminally ill need to be heard.”

The experiences of those who are terminally ill need to be heard

His solicitor, Yogi Amin, a partner at the national law firm Irwin Mitchell, said that the High Court ruling was “obviously disappointing and on behalf of Noel we will now seek permission to take the case to the appeal courts.

“Noel would like the choice to be able to die with dignity. He has proposed a new legal framework with safeguards in place of the current blanket ban on assisted dying.”

Amin added that “the world has changed phenomenally in the past few decades, with many medical advances, but the law on assisted dying for those who are terminally ill hasn’t changed for more than 50 years”.

Conway’s case was the first challenge to the existing law since that of Tony Nicklinson, who suffered paralysis after a stroke. The Supreme Court ultimately dismissed Nicklinson’s case in June 2014, with the justices saying that it was important that parliament debated the issues before any decision was made by the courts.

After debates in the Commons and Lords, parliament decided not to provide for legislative exceptions to the 1961 act.

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