Thursday 19 September 2019

Terminally-ill man's challenge of assisted dying law to end his 'barbaric' life rejected by UK Supreme Court

Terminally-ill Noel Conway (67)
Terminally-ill Noel Conway (67)

Sian Harrison

A terminally-ill motor neurone disease sufferer has been refused permission for a challenge over the law on assisted dying at the UK's highest court.

The UK Supreme Court justices rejected a bid by Noel Conway to appeal against an earlier ruling in his fight over current legislation which prevents him from being helped to die.

The 68-year-old, from Shrewsbury, says that being forced to choose between "unacceptable options" to end his life is "barbaric".

He wants medical assistance to die when he has less than six months left to live, still has the mental capacity to make the decision and has made a "voluntary, clear, settled and informed" choice.

Mr Conway lost a Court of Appeal challenge in June against an earlier UK High Court rejection of his case that the "blanket ban" on assisted dying was an unjustified interference with his human rights.

He sought to challenge that at the UK Supreme Court and justices took the unusual step of considering his case at a hearing last week.

During that hearing, Mr Conway's lawyers told the court the retired lecturer does not accept that withdrawal of his "non-invasive ventilation" (NIV), which he needs 23 hours a day, would be an acceptable way for him to end his life.

But Lady Hale, Lord Reed and Lord Kerr declined permission for an appeal.

Giving reasons for their decision in a joint statement, they said: "No-one doubts that the issue is of transcendent public importance.

"It touches us all.

"We all have to experience the death of people about whom we care.

"We all have to contemplate our own death."

The justices added: "Ultimately the question for this panel is whether the prospects of Mr Conway's succeeding in his claim before this court are sufficient to justify our giving him permission to pursue it, with all that that would entail for him, for his family, for those on all sides of this multi-faceted debate, for the general public and for this court.

"Not without some reluctance, it has been concluded that in this case those prospects are not sufficient to justify giving permission to appeal."

Mr Conway, who is supported by the campaign group Dignity In Dying, was too unwell to travel to London for the UK Supreme Court hearing.

He is now dependent on a ventilator for up to 23 hours a day and only has movement in his right hand, head and neck.

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