Telford College pays tribute to former tutor and right-to-die campaigner Noel Conway

Tributes have been paid to former Telford College tutor and right-to-die campaigner Noel Conway.

Noel Conway
Noel Conway

The 71-year-old, whose death was announced on Friday, was responsible for setting up the college’s adult Access programme, which is still a thriving part of the curriculum.

Mr Conway left the college in August 2014 after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease, and gained national recognition in his later years for bringing a legal challenge against the ban on assisted dying in the UK.

He took his campaign right the way to the Supreme Court, arguing for his right to die as a result of his dwindling quality of life, but lost the appeal in 2018.

Campaign group Dignity in Dying said he died on Wednesday at his home in Garmston, Shropshire, after deciding to remove his ventilator with the support of his family and a local hospice.

Current Telford College lecturer David Fitchett remembers Noel fondly. He said: “Noel was dedicated to lifelong learning - teaching adults was his passion.

“For a period of time if you were an adult learner in the borough, it was highly likely that Noel or one of his team taught you.

“Noel was passionate and committed to the Telford and Wrekin community; he was highly intelligent, compassionate and supportive.

“Noel made my relocation from London to the Midlands much easier, he offered me accommodation and hospitality whilst I became established.

“He was always supportive to me and all new lecturers, we’re all sad to hear the news about the passing of one of our college community.”

Principal and chief executive Graham Guest said: “The thoughts of the Telford College community are with Noel’s family at this difficult time. He was a much loved, appreciated and fondly remembered part of our team.”

Dignity In Dying, the campaign group which supported Noel’s legal bid, paid its own tribute to him in a statement.

It said: "Noel will be remembered as a loving husband, father, grandfather, friend, lecturer, mentor and for playing an instrumental role in bringing us closer to having a safe, compassionate assisted dying law in this country.”

In a poignant final letter, which Mr Conway composed to be released after his death, the campaigner said: "When you read this I will be dead. Not because I have suffered a tragic accident or died suffering from a long-standing or painful disease. No, it will be because I have made a conscious and deliberate effort to end my own life. I suffer from motor neurone disease (MND) and was diagnosed over six years ago, knowing that at some stage I would reach a point when my muscles would have deteriorated to such an extent that I could not function effectively.

He also explained how his death was legal, adding: "Under UK law, it is perfectly legitimate to remove a ventilator from someone like me and it is not assisted dying, as a ventilator is a medical intervention by others to support life.

"Assisted dying is where someone actually helps me to access and take medication to bring about my death and this is currently illegal. Ironically I have spent the last several years campaigning to have the law changed but without success, although the topic itself has been aired nationally and is much more prominent now than it ever was. I am glad that Parliament is continuing to discuss it and investigate the possibilities of an assisted dying law in line with many other countries over the last few years.

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