Terminally ill man in High Court challenge to assisted dying laws

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A terminally ill motor neurone disease sufferer is going to court to challenge the law on assisted dying.

Retired college lecturer Noel Conway was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in November 2014 and is not expected to live beyond the next 12 months.

Mr Conway, 67, from Shrewsbury, wants to bring a judicial review which could result in terminally ill adults who meet strict criteria making their own decisions about ending their lives.

Before his illness, he enjoyed hiking, cycling and travelling but his deteriorating condition means that whilst he retains full mental capacity, his ability to move, dress, eat and deal with personal care independently has diminished considerably.

Mr Conway, who is dependent on a ventilator to breathe overnight and much of the day, wants to have the option of an assisted death when he is in his final six months of life.

He said: "I feel very strongly that it is a dying person's right to determine how they die and when they die. The current law denies me this right.

"Instead I am being condemned to unbearable suffering in my final months. I may die by suffocation or choking, or I could become completely unable to move or communicate.

"The only way for me to have some control is to refuse use of my ventilator, but there is no telling how long it would take for me to die, or whether my suffering could be managed.

"I am not prepared to spend the thousands of pounds needed for an assisted death abroad, nor do I want to travel far from home, away from all my loved ones - in any case I may no longer be well enough to travel.

"I'm going to die anyway. It's a question of whether I die with or without suffering and on my own terms or not.

"I'm bringing this case not just for me, but for all others facing terminal illness who want and deserve to have the option of a safe, dignified assisted death available to them in the UK."

Mr Conway, who is supported by Dignity in Dying, has instructed lawyers Irwin Mitchell to bring the case on the grounds that the current law contained in the Suicide Act 1961 is incompatible with his right to a private life, which includes being able to make decisions about how his life ends.

If permission is granted by two judges at London's High Court on Tuesday, there will be a full hearing later this year.

A case brought by Tony Nicklinson - who suffered from paralysis after a stroke - was ultimately dismissed in 2014 by the Supreme Court, which stated it was important that Parliament debated the issues before any decision was made by the courts.

Mr Conway's case is different in that he has a terminal illness and his legal team are setting out a strict criteria and clear potential safeguards to protect vulnerable people from any abuse of the system.