Terminally ill man to appeal against rejection of assisted dying challenge

A terminally ill motor neurone disease sufferer has vowed to continue his legal fight against the “blanket ban” on assisted dying after High Court judges rejected his case.

Phil Newby, 49, from Rutland, East Midlands, was diagnosed with MND in 2014 and is no longer able to walk or use his hands and lower arms.

The married father-of-two sought to bring legal action against the Government over the law, which makes it a criminal offence for anyone to help another person end their life.

Mr Newby’s case was that judges should thoroughly examine a large amount of expert evidence, including from countries where assisted dying is legal, before deciding whether the law is incompatible with his human rights.

But, refusing permission for his case to go ahead, Lord Justice Irwin and Mrs Justice May said the court is “not an appropriate forum for the discussion of the sanctity of life”.

In a ruling delivered in London on Tuesday, Lord Justice Irwin said it was “impossible” not to have great sympathy for Mr Newby’s situation.

In a statement after the ruling, Mr Newby, who raised more than £42,000 through the Crowdjustice website towards his legal costs, said he will continue his legal battle.

He said: “The High Court’s decision not to hear my case, and not to test the evidence for and against assisted dying, is disappointing to me and the many hundreds of others who support my case.

Noel Conway court case
Noel Conway court case

“With their support, I will be fighting on to bring attention to a law that is widely thought to be cruel, so that it can be replaced by something more humane and compassionate.”

His solicitor Saimo Chahal QC said: “It is important that the highest court should have an opportunity to consider issues which it is accepted are of transcendental importance to Phil and many others in his situation.

“An appeal will shortly be lodged in the Court of Appeal as the prospect of Parliament considering the issues is non-existent.”

His lawyers told a hearing in October that Mr Newby is facing an “inhumane and intolerable” deterioration as his illness progresses.

Mr Newby, a former director of environmental firm Green Ventures, had sought a declaration that the law as it stands is incompatible with his human rights.

His case is the latest in a series of challenges where the courts have been asked to consider the matter of assisted dying.

The most recent legal action was brought by MND sufferer Noel Conway, whose bid to appeal to the Supreme Court was rejected in November last year.

Parliament rejected a bill on assisted dying, which would have changed the law for those with less than six months to live, in 2015.

Lord Justice Irwin said in the ruling: “In the context of repeated and recent parliamentary debate, where there is an absence of significant change in societal attitude expressed through Parliament, and where the courts lack legitimacy and expertise on moral, as opposed to legal, questions, in our judgment the courts are not the venue for arguments which have failed to convince Parliament.

“Even if there was very widespread examination of evidence in these proceedings, the court process is in our view unlikely to provide reliable answers so as to determine this issue.

“Considerations of morality, upon which the issue turns, are simply not reducible to statistical analysis or any hard-edged, measurable or quantitative conclusions.”