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Noel Conway: Shrewsbury man's battle for a ‘dignified death’ will continue

By Lucy Todman | Shrewsbury | Health | Published:

The fight to overturn the current law on assisted dying will go on for terminally ill Shrewsbury grandfather Noel Conway.

Mr Conway, 67, lost his bid for a judicial review on the right-to-die when three High Court judges issued their verdict on his case in London yesterday.

Noel Conway arriving at Telford County Court with supporters in July to view a video link of a judicial review on assisted dying

The retired lecturer, who did not attend court due to his health, now plans to appeal the judgement and says he is doing it not only for himself but for thousands of others.

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Mr Conway was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2014 and has become increasingly paralysed. He is now reliant on a ventilator to breathe.

He wished to get assistance from the medical profession to bring about a “peaceful and dignified” death while he retains the mental capacity to make the decision.

The law as it stands means that anyone who helped him would be committing a criminal offence.

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Sarah Wootton, chief executive of Dignity in Dying, which has backed Mr Conway's bid said they would continue to support the battle.

Carol and Noel Conway

She said: “While we are disappointed with the judgment, it does confirm that the courts have the authority to declare the current law inconsistent with our human rights. Noel does not accept the death that the current law forces him to have, and neither do we, which is why Dignity in Dying will support Noel every step of the way to take this case on to the appeal courts.

“How can it be more ethical or safe for Noel to have his ventilation withdrawn under the current law, with no formal safeguards, than for him to request life-ending medication within the multiple safeguards proposed through his case? This is paradoxical."

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Ms Wootton said that the legal changes proposed by Mr Conway have worked successfully in other countries.

She said: "It is clear the current law does not work, when every eight days someone from this country travels to Dignitas; every year 300 dying people end their own lives at home in England and Wales; and thousands more experience unimaginable suffering right to the bitter end. Terminally ill people deserve to be listened to. They are, after all, the true experts on how they want to die.

Dignity in Dying of campaigners showing their support for Noel Conway

“The law being proposed in Noel’s case is not a step into the unknown – it has been proven to work safely and effectively in Oregon, USA, for 20 years and now almost 57 million Americans live in states where they could request assisted dying if they were terminally ill. Similar laws are due to be debated in the Australian states of Victoria and New South Wales before the end of the year. Dying people in this country are being let down while the rest of the world moves on.

“Dignity in Dying remains committed to fighting for positive change and will continue wholeheartedly supporting Noel as he assesses his options for appeal.”

Noel Conway

Noel’s solicitor Yogi Amin, partner and head of public law and human rights at Irwin Mitchell, added: “Today’s judgment is obviously disappointing and on behalf of Noel we will now seek permission to take the case to the appeal courts.

“Noel would like the choice to be able to die with dignity. He has proposed a new legal framework with safeguards in place of the current blanket ban on assisted dying. 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.”

Lucy Todman

By Lucy Todman
@shroptod

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star and Shrewsbury Chronicle based in Shrewsbury.

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