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Defending life
from conception to natural death


Disability campaigners intervene in court case to avert "terrifying prospect" of assisted suicide

17 July 2017

Liz Carr said: " It is important that the Court hears from the people most at risk from any change to the current law."

The first court case attempting to legalise assisted suicide since the defeat of the Marris Bill starts today - and disability rights groups are intervening to fight the "terrifying prospect."

Today, the High Court has begun hearing a legal challenge by a terminally ill man seeking to overturn the law prohibiting assisted suicide. Noel Conway, a retired lecturer with motor neurone syndrome, is being supported by euthanasia campaign group Dignity in Dying, whose lawyers will argue that the current blanket ban on assisted suicide under the Suicide Act is incompatible with his rights under sections 8 and 14 the Human Rights Act (respect for private and family life and protection from discrimination).

Assisted suicide was last considered by Parliament in September 2015 when Rob Marris MP’s "Assisted Dying Bill" was decisively defeated by 330 to 118 votes in the House of Commons. Mr Conway is now attempting to override Parliament’s decision by seeking a change in the law through the Courts.

Putting disabled people at risk

Not Dead Yet UK, a campaigning network of disabled people founded in 2006 to oppose attempts to legalise assisted suicide for disabled and terminally ill people, has announced that it will intervene in the case. The organisation said that it recognises and empathises with Mr Conway’s fears for his future, but believes that legalising Assisted Suicide by any means would put other disabled and terminally ill people at risk.

Not Dead Yet UK co-founder Phil Friend said,  "A change in the law is a terrifying prospect to the vast majority of disabled and terminally ill people who work hard towards achieving equality for all. Until we have reached that objective Assisted Suicide will remain a dangerous and prejudiced option, likely to increase suffering and distress".

Support to live not die

Liz Carr, star of BBC1 drama 'Silent Witness' said,  "Disabled and terminally ill people want support to live – not to die. It is important that the Court hears from the people most at risk from any change to the current law. As a long standing supporter of Not Dead Yet UK I am keen to take an active role in making that happen".

A change in the law is opposed by every major disability rights organisation and doctors' group, including the BMA, the Royal College of GPs and the Association for Palliative Medicine.

Parliament has decided

The Care Not Killing Alliance (CNK) has also been given permission to intervene in the case. CNK will argue that a blanket prohibition on euthanasia and assisted suicide is "necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, and for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others." The organisation will further argue that to pursue this case in court is "institutionally inappropriate given that parliament has repeatedly, rigorously and comprehensively considered this issue and decided not to change the law."

Humanists UK is intervening on behalf of Mr Conway. The case is expected to last up to four days. 

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