Terminally ill former lecturer wins right to fight assisted dying ban
A terminally ill former lecturer has won the right to challenge the legal ban on assisted dying in the hope that he can end his life at home surrounded by his family.
Noel Conway, 67, from Shrewsbury, Shropshire, was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in November 2014. His condition is incurable and he is not expected to live beyond 12 months.
The court of appeal on Wednesday reversed a previous ruling and said the high court should hear the highly contentious claim.
In their judgment, Lord Justice McFarlane and Lord Justice Beatson said: “It is arguable that the evidence demonstrates that a mechanism of assisted dying can be devised for those in Mr Conway’s narrowly defined group that is practical so as to address one of the unanswered questions in the [earlier Nicklinson right to die case].”
Supported by the organisation Dignity in Dying, Conway has instructed lawyers to seek permission for a judicial review of the ban on assisted dying, which he says prevents him ending his own life without protracted pain. Assisted dying is prohibited by section 2(1) of the Suicide Act 1961 and voluntary euthanasia is considered murder under English and Welsh law.
Conway, who was not in court, welcomed the decision and said: “I am delighted that my case will now proceed to the next stage. Clearly the court of appeal has agreed that this is an issue deserving full and proper consideration and I look forward to a full hearing at the high court.
“I am more determined than ever to continue. I have the support of my loved ones and many thousands of others behind me.
“I have lived my whole life on my own terms, in control of the choices and decisions I make. Why then, when I am facing my final months, should these rights be stripped away from me, leaving me at the mercy of a cruel illness?
“I know I am going to die anyway, but how and when should be up to me.”
Sarah Wootton, chief executive of Dignity in Dying, said the law denied terminally ill people like Noel the choice and control they deserved at the end of their lives. She said parliament had failed to adequately address assisted dying and urged the courts to take into account recent developments in assisted dying abroad.
She said: “We are pleased that Noel’s case will now get the full and proper hearing it deserves at the high court. The current law simply does not work for dying people or their families.”
In their judgment, Lord Justices McFarlane and Beatson said: “We consider that, in the context of considering permission for judicial review, the fact that since [the Nicklinson case] parliament has made a decision not to change the law and the matter is no longer under active consideration means that Mr Conway should be entitled to argue that it is no longer institutionally inappropriate for the court to consider whether to make a declaration of incomparability [between the existing law and Conway’s rights under the European convention on human rights].”