Terminally ill man loses High Court challenge on assisted dying

Noel Conway, who has been given 12 months to live, vows to appeal decision

Noel Conway, campaigner for right to die

A terminally-ill man has lost his High Court bid to change the law so he can be given assistance to die at home.

Former lecturer Noel Conway, 67, who has motor neurone disease and is not expected to live beyond another 12 months, reports The Guardian, had told judges that laws banning assisted dying were condemning him to an "unbearable" death.

However, they rejected his bid by a majority decision of two to one, saying it would be "institutionally inappropriate" for the court to challenge the decision of parliament.

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Justice Burnett said: "My conclusion does nothing to diminish the deep sympathy I feel for Mr Conway, his family and others who are confronted with the reality of living and dying with incurable degenerative conditions such as motor neurone disease."

Conway, vowed to continue his battle, saying: "I will not be deterred and will be appealing this decision.

"I am fighting for choice and control over my death, because the current ban on assisted dying denies me these rights and forces me to face an unacceptable set of options that most people would balk at in disbelief."

Conway's lawyers were seeking a judicial review of the ban on assisted dying, arguing that the Suicide Act 1961 is incompatible with Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998, which relates to respect for private and family life, and Article 14, which enables protection from discrimination, says the BBC.

Sarah Wootton, chief executive of the campaign group Dignity in Dying, said it was "disappointed" with the outcome.

She added: "The current law simply does not work and Noel would like the courts to examine the evidence in detail.

"Parliament has so far ignored the pleas of dying people like Noel and the overwhelming majority of the public who also support a change in the law on assisted dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults in their final six months of life."

The Care Not Killing Alliance, which promotes palliative care over euthanasia, said in a statement: "The current laws on assisted suicide and euthanasia are simple and clear. They exist to protect those who are sick, elderly, depressed, or disabled from feeling obliged to end their lives."

Terminally ill man challenges ban on assisted dying

22 March

A terminally ill man has told the High Court in London that laws banning assisted dying are condemning him to an "unbearable" death.

Retired lecturer Noel Conway, 67, who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in November 2014, is not expected to live beyond 12 months and says he should be able to choose to die with support.

He said in a statement: "I feel very strongly that it is a dying person's right to determine how they die and when they die. The current law denies me this right.

"Instead, I am being condemned to unbearable suffering in my final months. I may die by suffocation or choking, or I could become completely unable to move or communicate."

Conway says he has enough quality of life to want to carry on living for now, but is concerned that once his condition has deteriorated, he will not physically be able to end his life unassisted.

He attended court in a wheelchair, breathing with the help of an oxygen mask, says the BBC.

Assisted dying is prohibited under the Suicide Act 1961 and voluntary euthanasia is considered murder under English and Welsh law.

This is the first case heard since the law was challenged in 2014, when the Supreme Court ruled that only parliament could change legislation on assisted dying. MPs debated the issue the following year but rejected any change.

Conway's legal team, supported by campaign group Dignity in Dying, say the current law is at odds with parts of the Human Rights Act enshrining the right to respect for life and protection from discrimination.

They are arguing for a judicial review which could result in terminally ill adults with less than six months to live making their own decisions about ending their lives.

The case differs from the most recent right-to-die claim, which was brought unsuccessfully in 2012 by Tony Nicklinson, who was paralysed.

After the High Court turned down his appeal, he refused to eat in protest and died six days later.

Following yesterday's hearing, Lord Justice Burnett, Mr Justice Charles and Mr Justice Jay said they would reserve their decision "only for a relatively short time".

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