Health

Right-to-die case: Shrewsbury's Noel Conway loses court bid


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Noel Conway, 67, is a retired college lecturer

A man with terminal motor neurone disease has lost a High Court bid to challenge the law on assisted dying.

Noel Conway, 67, who was diagnosed in November 2014 and is not expected to live beyond 12 months, said he should be free to determine his own death.

Mr Conway, of Shrewsbury, had told the court at a previous hearing he faces an “unbearable death” because of the law.

Two judges ruled against Mr Conway while one, Mr Justice Charles, agreed permission should be granted.

Mr Conway said he would appeal against the court’s decision, the first case to be heard since the law was challenged in 2014 and 2015 and the only one involving a terminally ill patient.

More on this and other Shropshire stories here

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NOEL CONWAY

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Before his illness Noel Conway was a keen skier, climber and cyclist

Mr Conway had hoped to bring a judicial review that could result in terminally ill adults who meet strict criteria, making their own decisions about ending their lives.

His counsel Richard Gordon QC, told the court that when he had less than six months to live and retained the mental capacity to make the decision, his client “would wish to be able to enlist assistance to bring about a peaceful and dignified death”.

Mr Conway was seeking a declaration 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.

‘Risk incriminating loved ones’

He was not in court in London to hear Lord Justice Burnett and Mr Justice Jay rule he did not have an arguable case to go forward.

Mr Conway, who is married with a son, daughter, stepson and grandchild, said he was “very disappointed” with their ruling.

“[But] I will not be deterred and will be appealing this decision,” he said.

He said he has “come to terms” with the fact he is going to die, but does not accept being “denied the ability to decide the timing and manner of my death”.

“The only alternative is to spend thousands of pounds, travel hundreds of miles and risk incriminating my loved ones in asking them to accompany me to Dignitas,” he said.

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FERGUS WALSH/ BBC

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Noel Conway and his wife, Carol, at home in Shropshire

Lord Justice Burnett said it remained “institutionally inappropriate” for a court to make a declaration of incompatibility between pieces of legislation, irrespective of personal views.

He added: “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.”

Sarah Wootton, chief executive of campaign group Dignity in Dying, which is supporting Mr Conway’s case, said the law “simply does not work”.

“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,” she said.

Ms Wootton said a Crowdfunder appeal had been launched to help cover Mr Conway’s legal costs and it had “received incredible support”.

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PA

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Noel Conway arrives at a previous hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London with his wife Carol and stepson Terry McCusker

Commenting on the case, the Care Not Killing Alliance said: “This is not a day for celebration. This was a troubling case that sought to usurp the democratic will of Parliament.

“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.”



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