Terminally ill man Phil Newby launches new assisted dying case

Posted On: 
2nd July 2019

Case seeks new approach by the courts on expert evidence.

Phil Newby, a 48-year-old man with motor neurone disease (MND), a progressive terminal illness, is launching a new challenge to the law criminalising assisted dying. 

Dignity in Dying member Phil is determined to live well with his family for as long he can, but he fears that without a change in the law he may be forced to suffer against his wishes as his illness progresses.

His case is different from previous cases challenging the law because it will ask the courts to look at the evidence on assisted dying in more detail than the English courts have ever done before. This would include detailed cross-examination of expert witnesses, allowing judges to test the strength of the evidence. This is the approach that was taken in Carter v Canada, the case that ultimately prompted law change on assisted dying in Canada.

Explaining his decision to launch the case Phil Newby said:

“I’ve come to accept that MND will eventually kill me, but I’m determined to enjoy life and contribute to my family for as long as I possibly can. When the time comes, I would like compassionate medical help to die in peace at home, with my family. Instead, my wife and girls face watching me starve, choke or suffocate to death, because of our inhumane and outdated laws that criminalise assisted dying.

“It doesn’t have to be this way. Other countries have introduced a compassionate and common-sense assisted dying legal framework, with safeguards. I’m bringing this legal case to give our highest courts the opportunity to fully examine the evidence, and make an informed decision on assisted dying.

“I can’t do this alone. I’m asking the public to support me by sharing my story and donating to our legal fund through CrowdJustice. Together, we can make a change.”

Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying:

“For too long, terminally ill people like Phil have been denied choice and control over their deaths, despite 84% of the public supporting a change in the law to allow this. Parliamentarians and medical professionals are lagging behind but the balance is shifting away from automatic opposition and towards evidence gathering and careful consideration. The Royal College of Physicians recently moved to neutrality on assisted dying following a survey of its members, the Royal College of General Practitioners and the British Medical Association last week announced that they will survey their members on the issue of assisted dying, and MPs will this week consider the functioning of the current law on assisted dying in a debate in the Commons Chamber.

“Phil picks up the baton from Noel Conway, who also has motor neurone disease and battled in the courts for over two years so that he and other terminally ill people could have the right to die on his own terms. Noel’s case won huge public support and secured important legal gains which will give future cases an easier passage through the courts. Phil’s case will provide an important opportunity for the UK courts to change their approach so they can fully consider the evidence on assisted dying in more depth than ever before.

“Following recent developments in Victoria in Australia and Maine and New Jersey in the US, soon 1 in 4 Australians, 1 in 5 Americans and all Canadians will have access to true choice at the end of life. Yet here in the UK, 0 Britons do. It is clear that this issue is not going away and we hope Phil will get the chance to make his case in court so that the growing body of evidence from overseas on safeguarded assisted dying can be considered.”