On Air Now
Heart Breakfast with Ed & Gemma 6am - 10am
30 March 2017, 11:19
A man from Shrewsbury, who's terminally ill, has lost a bid challenge assisted dying laws in the High Court.
Noel Conway, 67, wanted permission to bring a judicial review which could result in terminally ill adults who meet strict criteria making their own decisions about ending their lives.
The retired college lecturer, was diagnosed in November 2014 and is not expected to live beyond the next 12 months.
His counsel, Richard Gordon QC, said that when he had less than six months to live and while he retained the mental capacity to make the decision "he would wish to be able to enlist assistance to bring about a peaceful and dignified death''.
Mr Conway was seeking a declaration that the Suicide Act 1961 is incompatible with Article 8, which relates to respect for private and family life, and Article 14, which protects from discrimination.
He was not in court in London on Thursday to hear Lord Justice Burnett and Mr Justice Jay rule that he did not have an arguable case to go forward.
Before his illness, Mr Conway, who is married with a son, daughter, stepson and grandchild, enjoyed hiking, cycling and travelling.
Counsel said he wished to die in the country where he was born and lived for his whole adult life.
"The choices facing him therefore are stark: to seek to bring about his own death now whilst he is physically able to do but before he is ready; or await death with no control over when and how it comes.''
Mr Conway contended that these choices, forced upon him by the provisions of the criminal law, violated his human rights.
At present there is a blanket prohibition on providing a person with assistance to die.
An action brought by Tony Nicklinson - who suffered from paralysis after a stroke - was ultimately 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.
Mr Conway's case is different in that he has a terminal illness and his legal team set out a strict criteria and clear potential safeguards to protect vulnerable people from any abuse of the system.
Mr Conway said: "I am very disappointed in the court's decision not to grant my case permission to proceed.
"Though this is a setback in my fight for rights at the end of my life, I will not be deterred and will be appealing this decision.
"I am fighting for choice and control over my death, because the current ban on assisted dying denies me these rights and forces me to face an unacceptable set of options that most people would balk at in disbelief.
"I am going to die, and I have come to terms with this fact. But what I do not accept is being denied the ability to decide the timing and manner of my death.
"I am not prepared to suffer right to the end, nor do I want to endure a long, drawn out death in a haze of morphine.
"The only alternative is to spend thousands of pounds, travel hundreds of miles and risk incriminating my loved ones in asking them to accompany me to Dignitas.
"This would also force me to die earlier than I would want.
"The option of an assisted death should be available to me, here in this country, in my final six months of life - this is what I am fighting for.
"It would bring immense peace of mind and allow me to live my life to the fullest, enjoying my final months with my loved ones until I decide the time is right for me to go.''
Sarah Wootton, chief executive of Dignity in Dying, which is supporting Mr Conway's case, said: "The current law simply does not work and Noel would like the courts to examine the evidence in detail.
"Parliament has so far ignored the pleas of dying people like Noel and the overwhelming majority of the public who also support a change in the law on assisted dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults in their final six months of life.
"And that is precisely why we will continue to fight for it.
"A Crowdfunder launched to help cover Noel's legal costs has received incredible support - further evidence that the public are firmly behind him.''
Yogi Amin, of law firm Irwin Mitchell, said: "The world has changed phenomenally in the past few decades with many medical advances, but the law on assisted dying for those who are terminally ill hasn't changed for more than 50 years.''
She added: "Noel wants the law changed so that it respects an individual's choice about dying with dignity.
"This situation is clearly traumatic for the individuals involved and their families who are often torn between not wanting to see their loved one suffer and also not wanting to lose them and we commend Noel for his bravery in bringing this important legal case.''