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Terminally ill Shropshire man in new call for assisted dying law

By Rory Smith | Telford | Health | Published:

A terminally ill Shropshire man has reignited calls for an inquiry into "cruel and outdated" assisted dying laws.

Noel Conway

Noel Conway relies on a ventilator to breathe and wants the option of an assisted death, urging MPs to launch an investigation into the current law, which bans assisted dying.

The 70-year-old from Eaton Constantine, near Telford, has motor neurone disease, a terminal neurodegenerative disorder which progressively causes weakness in the body and eventually total loss of physical functions, before death.

Mr Conway has made the fresh call ahead of MPs, experts and campaigners meeting to discuss the law next week.

He said: "The law has left me with only one feasible option if I want some control over my death. That is to remove my breathing aid – which I rely on nearly 24/7 – which will result in breathlessness and eventually suffocation.

"No one knows how well medication could alleviate the sensation of fighting for breath before I die, or how long the process would take. I don’t want to do this, however, the longer I leave it, the more likely it is I will become completely locked-in my own body, unable to move any part of it or to communicate with my loved ones or doctors. This choice is completely unacceptable to me and to my family."

Mr Conway's plea coincides with the publication of Last Rights: The Case for Assisted Dying, a book highlighting assisted dying and the affects it can have, which has been endorsed by high profile figures including actor Sir Patrick Stewart, chef and TV presenter Prue Leith and author Ian McEwan.

Mr Conway added: "The option I really want is that of a legal assisted death, in my own home at a time of my choosing. Every MP who cares about how we treat dying people in this country should read Last Rights. They will soon realise the full impact of the blanket ban on assisted dying. Politicians must launch an inquiry into these cruel and outdated laws."

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Choice at the End of Life is due to meet on Wednesday, July 15.

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Sarah Wootton, chief executive of Dignity in Dying and co-author of Last Rights, said: "The coronavirus pandemic has made all of us confront our own mortality. We have had to come to terms with a sense of powerlessness, fear, and anxiety over an uncertain future.

"We have been shocked at how some have died from Covid-19 – frightened, isolated, and feeling like doctors are making decisions for them, not with them.

"But this is precisely what terminally ill people already face under the UK’s ban on assisted dying.

“Our dying citizens are denied choice and control at a time they need it most and are instead forced to resort to drastic measures which often leave them dying in secret, alone, terrified and in pain. And what were already limited options fraught with risk and stress, such as travelling to Dignitas, have been made even more so by current restrictions.

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“As we begin to emerge from the worst of this pandemic, the time is now for a grown-up conversation about the fact we are getting dying wrong in this country, and how we can at last fix our broken laws. Last Rights begins that discussion, and the next step must be an inquiry into the full impact of the ban on assisted dying.”

The APPG for Choice at the End of Life, chaired by Karin Smyth MP, is being convened to hear both personal stories and expert international opinion regarding the impact of the blanket ban on assisted dying.

Speakers at the meeting will include Attorney General and former Health Minister in Victoria, Australia, Jill Hennessy MP, journalist Danny Finkelstein, and Joy Munns, the daughter of Mavis Eccleston who was cleared of murder last year after helping her terminally ill husband to die.

Jill Hennessy was the minister in charge of Victoria’s Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill, the first successful legislation on the subject to be passed in Australia, in 2017.

Rory Smith

By Rory Smith
Reporter - @rorysmith_star

Senior reporter based at the Shropshire Star's head office in Ketley, Telford.

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