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Retired Lecturer Noel Conway appeals assisted-dying case

19 January 2018


Noel Conway (AP) wishes to challenge the Suicide Act 1961, which currently prohibits doctors from prescribing lethal doses.

Noel Conway, diagnosed with a terminal illness, has won the first stage of his Court of Appeal challenge to an earlier ruling on assisted dying.

The 68-year-old retired lecturer from Shrewsbury is fighting a legal battle for the right to a "peaceful and dignified" death. Mr Conway wants a doctor to be allowed to prescribe him a lethal dose of drugs when he has a prognosis of six months or less to live, reports iNews.

Assisted Suicide in Britain's Law

Due to the Suicide Act 1961, at present, anyone convicted of intentionally encouraging or assisting the suicide or attempted suicide of another person, could be jailed for 14 years.

Mr Conway previously asked the High Court for a declaration that the Suicide Act 1961 is incompatible with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which relates to respect for private and family life, and Article 14, which protects from discrimination.

"To avoid distressing and difficult disputes at the end of life"

SPUC’s Dr Anthony McCarthy commented on the development:

"Noel Conway's wish to be assisted in killing himself by doctors was rightly rejected last year in Court. In a strongly-worded statement, the judges found that, "It is legitimate in this area for the legislature to seek to lay down clear and defensible standards in order to provide guidance for society, to avoid distressing and difficult disputes at the end of life and to avoid creating a slippery slope leading to incremental expansion over time of the categories of people to whom similar assistance for suicide might have to be provided." That judgement ultimately found that section 2 of the Human Rights Act (right to life) was compatible with Article 8 rights (private and family life).

Having failed to undermine this country's protections for vulnerable people through Parliament, assisted suicide campaigners are now moving to use the courts to bypass not only Parliament but opposition from major medical bodies, not to mention the main disability groups.

Mr Conway's distressing condition makes it all the more important that he is given the best medical and palliative care, including any necessary psychological and emotional support, while his life's intrinsic value is always affirmed and not denied.

It is laughable to suggest that there is no slippery slope when it comes to assisted suicide. Once the idea of lives with no remaining value takes hold, we see the expansion of claims to be allowed to die simply because the patient wants this (for example an older person who is merely 'tired of life'). In legislatures where assisted suicide and/or euthanasia is permitted and data is available we have seen an ever-widening scope of people being allowed and encouraged to end their lives and indeed, appalling numbers of people killed non-voluntarily, both the elderly and children.

Assisted suicide is sometimes actively offered to those who simply want good health care: in Oregon, as Dr Peter Saunders has pointed out, 'there are examples of cancer patients being denied lifesaving and life-extending drugs, yet offered a lethal cocktail of barbiturates to end their own lives.'

SPUC stands with the vulnerable who need help, and against those who would undermine legal protection for them, and who ignore powerful evidence from abroad of what happens when we open the door to the view that certain lives have no value and may be deliberately ended on that ground."

An appeal for the "right to die"

His case was rejected in October last year, but the court of appeal of Sir Ernest Ryder and Lord Justice Underhill have now granted him permission for a full appeal hearing.

The judges made their decision based on documents submitted by Mr Conway's legal team, without hearing any oral representations.

In a statement issued after the decision, Mr Conway said: "I am pleased that my case will now proceed to the Court of Appeal. I brought this case not only for myself but on behalf of all terminally ill people who believe they should have the right to die on their own terms. Our voices deserve to be heard."

The ruling has so far been criticised by Not Dead Yet UK, who are part of a global alliance of disabled people who oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide, and Care Not Killing, an alliance of individuals and organisations who promote more and better palliative care, over euthanasia and assisted dying.

iNews reports on a statement from Care Not Killing: "The safest law is one like Britain's current law, which gives blanket prohibition on all assisted suicide and euthanasia. This deters exploitation and abuse through the penalties that it holds in reserve, but at the same time gives some discretion to prosecutors and judges to temper justice with mercy in hard cases. "We are confident that the appeal court judges will now dismiss this latest application to change the law.""

Britain's law deters exploitation

News of this high court appeal comes only days after the news that Belgium's Euthanasia law is "abused to kill people without consent", citing the case of a 38-year-old autism sufferer who was killed without required documentation after ending a love affair . Increasing numbers of Belgian palliative care nurses and social workers are reportedly abandoning their jobs, saying the country's growing euthanasia culture is in 'complete contradiction' to their training. In a quote reported by the Catholic Herald: "palliative care units are being turned into "houses of euthanasia"".

News in brief:

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Comments (1)

  • Pat

    20 January 2018, 7:47am

    So many people are forgetting that we have a right to be attended by health care practitioners who are ethical and who do not kill. Belgium is a stark reminder that when the law removes the protection of the vulnerable, it is inevitable that the loss of ethical people in the health care field will become widespread. Does you doctor kill? Is he a murderer? Do you want to go to a doctor who murders? We've been down this road before. Those who forget the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them. In the shuffle of this, those of us who believe in God's right to determine our lives and the length and destiny of them are overlooked. The final months or weeks of a person's life are a time of preparation, to reconcile with God. I have seen what a difference this makes in a person's life and destiny. No one has a right to cut that short, even if the victim desires it.

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