Star comment: Let’s see kindness from court

The tragic case of terminally ill Noel Conway has brought a new focus onto the euthanasia debate.

Noel Conway and family outside court
Noel Conway and family outside court

Mr Conway, 67, has motor neurone disease. He is slowly being entombed in his own body. He seeks a release from a slow, painful death, in which he will suffer physically and psychologically as he falls into a zombie-like condition.

Few could fail to be moved by his plight. And it is Mr Conway’s suffering that should be at the heart of public debate.

If the retired college lecturer finds a doctor willing to help him die, the GP could face up to 14 years in prison. And so he is challenging the courts, three years on from the last major Supreme Court battle, to provide an empathetic judgement that respects his wish to die with dignity.

The plight of Mr Conway is horrific. A fit man from Shrewsbury who loved the outdoors, he is succumbing to his own worst fears while those who make and uphold our laws refuse to intervene. There is, it would seem, no compassion. There is little empathy. Though his is clearly a case where intervention might be acceptable, the law refuses to budge.

And given the slow pace at which our legal system moves when a judgement is finally arrived at, Mr Conway might not be in a fit state to respond as he might wish.

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The law has been challenged on numerous occasions by people who seek a dignified end to lives that are not worth living. The severely ill and disabled whose lives are near an end seek a compassionate release from their suffering and pain. And while there are compelling arguments both for and against assisted suicide, a great moral weight rests with those who are experiencing the daily trauma of a painful and futile life.

It is quite right that Mr Conway is bringing his challenge and we must hope for greater clarity from the legal profession. We must also hope that those who might in other cases have a professional detachment from legal issues will engage fully and demonstrate empathy and kindness.

Assisted suicide is illegal under English law, yet some have flown to Switzerland in order to make a last, meaningful decision in their lives.

Mr Conway has the sympathy of every man and woman. The court must listen to him seriously when it assesses whether he should have the right to die.

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