Supreme Court rejects Noel Conway assisted dying case appeal

Posted On: 
27th November 2018

Today (27 November 2018) the Supreme Court has decided not to grant permission to Noel Conway to bring his case to a full hearing at the Supreme Court. Noel Conway’s case will proceed no further.

The permissions hearing took place before Supreme Court President Baroness Hale of Richmond, Deputy President Lord Reed and Justice Lord Kerr of Tonaghmore. In their decision the Supreme Court Justices make clear the importance of the issues raised by the case for society “No-one doubts that this issue is of transcendent public importance”. The decision also confirms that “the ban on assisted suicide is an interference with the right to respect for private life protected by article 8” [the right to private life].

Noel Conway, 68, from Shropshire, has terminal motor neurone disease and brought a judicial review challenging the current law on assisted dying. Noel feels that he is prevented from exercising his right to choice and control over his death under the current law and he fears that without a change in the law he may be forced to suffer against his wishes. Noel, supported by Dignity in Dying, has instructed law firm Irwin Mitchell to bring this case to fight for his right to have the option of an assisted death when he is in his final six months of life.

Noel said, “Today’s decision is extremely disappointing. It means that I will not be able to have my arguments heard by the highest court in the land. Dying people like me cannot wait years for another case to be heard.

“I am particularly disappointed that the Courts have instead listened to the arguments of doctors who have never met me but think they know best about the end of my life. I have no choice over whether I die; my illness means I will die anyway. The only option I currently have is to remove my ventilator and effectively suffocate to death under sedation. To me this is not acceptable, and for many other dying people this choice is not available at all.

“All I want is the option to die peacefully, with dignity, on my own terms, and I know that the majority of the public are behind me. It is downright cruel to continue to deny me and other terminally ill people this right.”

“This is the end of the road for my case, so we must now turn our attention back to Parliament. I hope that MPs will listen to the vast majority of their constituents and give people like me a say over our deaths.”

Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying, said: “This decision is a grave injustice for dying people across the country who want to have a say in how and when they die. Despite the Supreme Court saying in 2014 that the current law on assisted dying could be in breach of dying people’s human rights, MPs failed to address these issues in 2015. After opening the door with its judgment in the Nicklinson case, The Supreme Court has declined to follow through, which will come as a bitter blow to those who want control over the manner and timing of their deaths.

“Not only does today’s decision let down dying people, it lets Parliament off the hook. When more than 80% of the British public want to see a change in the law on assisted dying, and when countries like the USA, Canada and Australia can all craft compassionate, safe  laws to allow their citizens this choice, we must ask why the UK is being left behind. Our current laws on assisted dying are outdated, unclear and unsafe. They allow assisted dying for those who can afford it or who are well enough to travel to Switzerland, but deny choice to the many more who want to die in their own homes, with their friends and family around them.

“We will now turn our attention back to Parliament and demonstrate to our MPs the strength of feeling on assisted dying. Last time around, MPs failed in their duty to represent the views of their constituents. Next time, we hope they will stand up for a safer, more compassionate law that benefits dying people.”

Noel’s solicitor Yogi Amin, partner and head of public law and human rights at Irwin Mitchell, added: “Noel is very disappointed that the Supreme Court did not grant permission to consider the full legal arguments in his case. The court has accepted that it could make a declaration that the current blanket ban on assisted dying breaches British human rights law. For now the legal issue and the unfairness remains unresolved.”

“Noel would like the choice to be able to die with dignity. He has proposed a new legal framework for terminally ill people with robust safeguards. This would be in place of the current blanket ban on assisted dying. The world has changed phenomenally in the past few decades with many medical advances but the law on assisted dying for those who are terminally ill hasn’t changed for more than 50 years.”