01:04, October 05 329 0 theguardian.com

2017-10-05 01:04:03
'Entombed' man to hear UK high court ruling on assisted dying

A man who feels “entombed” by a terminal illness is to learn the outcome of his legal “fight for choice at the end of life”.

Noel Conway, a 67-year-old retired lecturer from Shrewsbury, has challenged the law on assisted dying. He was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in November 2014 and is not expected to live more than 12 months.

When he has less than six months to live and retains the mental capacity to make the decision, he would like to be able to enlist help 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.

Conway, who will not be attending London’s high court on Thursday, 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.

His counsel, Richard Gordon QC, has told Lord Justice Sales, Mrs Justice Whipple and Mr Justice Garnham that Mr Conway had expressed graphically the effect of his illness, referring to the feeling of “entombment”.

Conway, who is supported by Dignity In Dying, has already been to the court of appeal to win the right for what he calls his “fight for choice at the end of life” to proceed. The case is opposed by the secretary of state for justice, with Humanists UK, Care Not Killing and Not Dead Yet UK also making submissions.

James Strachan QC has said that it is inappropriate for the courts to interfere with parliament’s legitimate decision on the “sensitive moral, social and ethical issue” raised by the case.

It is the first challenge to this law since the case of Tony Nicklinson, who suffered from paralysis after a stroke. That was ultimately dismissed in June 2014 by the supreme court, which said it was a matter for parliament to decide.

After debates in both houses, parliament decided – at least for the moment – not to provide for legislative exceptions to the 1961 act.