Noel Conway, a retired lecturer who is terminally ill, has launched a legal challenge for the right to die. He claims the 1961 Suicide Act condemns him to a terrifying and undignified death.
Mr Conway, 67, has motor neurone disease. He was diagnosed two years ago. Due to the nature of the disease, Mr Conway will lose his mobility and be trapped in his own body. He is expected to live for 12 months.
Mr Conway has instructed Irwin Mitchell to seek permission for a judicial review in the high court. He has the support of the organisation Dignity in Dying. Mr Conway has said that the ban on assisted suicide prevents him from ending his own life without going through a terrible death.
In the UK assisted suicide is prohibited by section 2(1) of the Suicide Act 1961. As such voluntary euthanasia is considered murder in the UK. If Conway’s challenge is successful, a criteria and safeguards for terminally ill adults to end their lives could be established.
The claim is formally against The Ministry of Justice and should be heard later this year. Mr Conway prior to his illness had a very active life. He enjoyed cycling, hiking, and travelling. His worsening condition, however, means that he needs help to eat, dress, and deal with personal care. He uses a ventilator to breathe.
Mr Conway said, “I have motor neurone disease. It is incurable and terminal. It is a muscle-wasting disease and I am now heading for its final stages when I face not being able to move at all. This prospect is terrifying and the amount of suffering unimaginable.
“Current law means that I will have no control of how my life ends and I will have to endure this nightmare for as long as it takes. As someone who has always been in control of his life and taken responsibility for himself, I find this quite unacceptable. I want to change the law to allow assisted dying so that I can be in control of my own death.”