Terminally ill man refused right to die

11th October 2017

Terminally ill man refused right to die

The contentious debate around assisted death has once again been sparked after a terminally ill man failed in his bid to be given the right to die.

Three judges at the Court of Appeal ruled against Noel Conway, a retired lecturer suffering from motor neurone disease, who had argued that the law should be changed to allow him a “peaceful and dignified” death.

The 67-year-old, who did not attend London’s High Court due to is health, said he felt “entombed” by his condition.

He said he wanted to be able to say goodbye to loved ones “at the right time, not to be in a zombie-like condition suffering both physically and psychologically”.

Any doctor who helped him to die would face up to 14 years in prison.

In March a panel of High Court judges rejected his bid to change the law, saying it would be “institutionally inappropriate” for the court to challenge the decision of Parliament.

MPs debated changing the law in 2015 but the proposals were voted down by a 212 majority.

Mr Conway, from Shrewsbury, wanted a declaration that the Suicide Act 1961 is incompatible with Article 8 of the European toon on human rights, which relates to respect for private and family life, and Article 14, which protects from discrimination. However, Lord Justice Sales, Mrs Justice Whipple and Mr Justice Garnham rejected his case.

Campaigners against assisted dying warned that the case could “usurp the democratic will of Parliament”.

The case was opposed by the Secretary of State for Justice, with Humanists UK, Care Not Killing and Not Dead Yet UK also making submissions.

What does the law say?

Assisted suicide – helping or encouraging another person to kill themselves – is illegal under English law.

Under the terms of the Suicide Act (1961) for England and Wales, it is punishable by up to 14 year’s imprisonment.

Mr Conway’s case is not the first time the law has been challenged. A case brought by Tony Nicklinson – who was paralysed after a stroke – was dismissed in 2014 by the Supreme Court, which stated it was important that Parliament debated the issues before any decision was made by the courts.

In September 2015 MPs rejected proposals to allow assisted dying in England and Wales, in their first vote on the issue in almost 20 years.

Mr Conway’s counsel, Richard Gordon QC, said it was a “very narrowly focused” case which sought only to challenge the blanket ban on assisted dying for a relatively small category, which included Mr Conway.

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