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Noel Conway: Right to die ruling is welcomed by campaign group

By Dominic Robertson | Shrewsbury | News | Published:

A campaign group has welcomed the High Court's decision to reject a Shrewsbury man's challenge to the law on assisted suicide.

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

Last week three judges rejected a judicial review from retired lecturer Noel Conway, who has been seeking to change the law to allow him an assisted death.

The 67-year-old has a form of motor neurone disease and is not expected to live beyond the next 12 months. He has said he intends to appeal the ruling.

However, Care Not Killing, one of the groups which opposed Mr Conway's bid, has said doctors should look to help people "maximise their independence and health" instead of helping them to die.

David Foster, partner at Barlow Robbins LLP, who acted on behalf of Care Not Killing, said: "The judgement is to be welcomed as an eminent example of the way judges listened carefully and understood the evidence put before them particularly from the British Geriatric Society.

"The society’s experience at the rock face showed that phrases such as, “can’t you just let me go”, are more often a cry for help rather than a genuine desire for death: often, listening to their patient’s wishes, concerns and fears and taking time to address their needs significantly diminishes their wish for death.

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"The British Geriatric Society consider the best way for physicians to help these vulnerable people is to maximise their independence and health rather than assisting their expressed wish to die.

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"The court accepted that once quality of life becomes the yardstick by which the value of human life is judged, the protection offered to the most vulnerable members of society is weakened.”

Mr Conway had been seeking 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.

But Lord Justice Sales, Mrs Justice Whipple and Mr Justice Garnham ruled that the courts do have the authority to make such a declaration of incompatibility between the 1961 Suicide Act and human rights legislation.

Speaking after the ruling was published Mr Conway said: “As I approach the end of my life, I face unbearable suffering and the possibility of a traumatic, drawn out death.

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"Travelling to Switzerland is no longer a viable option and I cannot put my family or doctors at risk of prosecution by asking for their help here at home.

"Knowing I had the option of a safe, peaceful assisted death at a time of my choosing would allow me to face my final months without the fear and anxiety that currently plagues me and my loved ones. It would allow me to live the rest of my life on my own terms, knowing I was in control rather than at the mercy of a cruel illness.

“Throughout this case I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support the public has shown me. I know that this fight is important not just to me, but thousands of others. I am undeterred by the decision and will appeal it with the support of my legal team and Dignity in Dying.”

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