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Shropshire campaigners say assisted suicide is not answer after Shrewsbury man loses court fight

Shrewsbury | News | Published:

Disability campaigners in Shropshire  say nothing has changed in their fight against assisted dying after terminally ill retired Shrewsbury lecturer Noel Conway was refused permission to bring a judicial review on the issue.

Nikki Kenward and husband Merv come from Aston on Clun and have long fought against a change to the law.

But they say the fight goes on despite Mr Conway losing a high court bid for his right to die.

Mrs Kenward said: "It is not the Nirvana people think it is."

The 64-year-old was fully paralysed by an illness for more than five months and is now in a wheelchair.

But she said it is paramount that assisted suicide remains illegal in the United Kingdom.

She said: "Nothing has changed. I really understand he feels why he needs it.

"But while assisted suicide gives people what they think is the right to die, it also gives doctors the right to kill, it will permeate into the ether and will become orthodox.

"We want to fight for good palliative care, at the moment it is not dealt out fairly.

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"You go on a journey with people who are very ill and dying, and I've been there. I know what it feels like to think 'I must be going to die', I can see why people are reaching for it.

"Some people will say it was horrendous, but to say you can have euthanasia instead, what about saying you can have really good, proper care.

"I think it is a very scary world."

Mrs Kenward, a former theatre manager, was stricken by Guillain-Barre Syndrome in 1990 and left almost completely paralysed for five months.

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She and her husband have previously travelled to London in their own high court bid to change the law regarding assisted suicide.

The Suicide Act 1961 makes it a criminal offence to assist or encourage suicide, with a penalty of up to 14 years' imprisonment but in 2014, director of public prosecutions Alison Saunders decided she would allow an amendment that prosecution should not extend to outside professionals brought in to assist suicide after the victim has reached a settled decision to end his or her life.

She says she fears the recent changes to policy put people in cases like hers at risk from pressure to take their own lives.

She is currently searching for funding for a play she has written about the other side of the assisted dying debate called Five A Day: Moments of Love and Death.

It is five short acts looking at different aspects of euthanasia and care.

Retired college lecturer Mr Conway was refused permission to bring a judicial review but he has vowed to fight to continue his battle.

Mr Conway, 67, was diagnosed in November 2014 and is not expected to live beyond the next 12 months.

His lawyers told the High Court 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".

At present there is a blanket prohibition on providing a person with assistance to die.

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.

But two out of three judges hearing his case in London ruled that it was not arguable.

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