Noel Conway is fighting for others say backers of Shrewsbury man's fight for right to die

Three High Court judges are expected to rule in October on the fate of a Shrewsbury man suffering from a terminal illness.

Noel Conway
Noel Conway

Noel Conway has been challenging the law on assisted dying in a landmark case being heard at the High Court in London.

Supporters of the former lecturer, who has been told he has just months to live, will have to wait until mid autumn to learn the outcome of the case, expected to be published after judges have taken their summer recess.

Mr Conway was unable to attend the Royal Courts of Justice in London this week due to his worsening health and instead gave evidence via video link at Telford County Court on Wednesday.

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The case was heard over four days and Mr Conway has been supported in his battle by the Dignity in Dying Campaign.

Ellie Ball, spokeswoman for the group, said that Mr Conway was acting on behalf of not just himself but for hundreds of other people who face the same fate as he does.

She said: “From the beginning he undertook this realising he might not survive. He is fighting for not just himself but also for other people in the same position, even if he is not around for the outcome.”

Mr Conway, 67, has terminal motor neurone disease and is being supported by Dignity in Dying to bring the judicial review challenging the current law on assisted dying.

He is reliant for 20 hours each day on a non-invasive ventilation device and said he feels ‘entombed’ as his condition deteriorates.

He feels that he is prevented from exercising his right to choice and control over his death under the current law and he fears that without a change he may be forced to suffer against his wishes.

Mr Conway instructed law firm Irwin Mitchell to bring the case to fight for his right to have the option of an assisted death when he is in his final six months of life. The judicial hearing, which began on Monday, saw Mr Conway’s legal team asking the courts to declare that the blanket ban on assisted dying under the Suicide Act 1961 is contrary to his rights under the Human Rights Act.

When Mr Conway has less than six months to live and retains the mental capacity to make the decision, he wishes to be able to enlist assistance from the medical profession to bring about a ‘peaceful and dignified’ death.

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

He wants a declaration that the Suicide Act 1961 is incompatible with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which relates to respect for private and family life, and Article 14, which protects from discrimination. The case is opposed by the Secretary of State for Justice, Care Not Killing and Not Dead Yet UK.

Currently, those wishing to end their lives in a more dignified and less painful way say they have to travel to Dignitas in Switzerland. Mr Conway and his supporters say the UK ban forces them to make that choice far earlier than should be the case.

In 2015, the House of Commons rejected a private member’s bill to introduce assisted dying. It was talked out before MPs had an opportunity to debate the bill in detail.

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