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Noel Conway’s right to die claim dismissed by High Court

The High Court today dismissed Noel Conway’s challenge to the law against assisted dying. Noel, who suffers from motor neurone disease, had his claim heard in July. Civil Liberties partner Nancy Collins represented Humanists UK, which intervened in the case in support. Noel now intends to appeal the decision.



Noel, who is also supported by Dignity in Dying, is challenging the illegality of assisted dying for those who are terminally ill and have six months or fewer to live.

Nancy Collins said, “This is a disappointing decision for those who believe that terminally ill people should have the right to choose the timing of their death.

“Clear parameters were proposed to manage any risks arising from assisted dying and we hoped that the court would embrace the arguments for a change to the current legislation. “We will continue to support Humanists UK in this important quest for a change to the law.”

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘We are hugely disappointed at the decision of the High Court today. It is simply wrong that those who are of sound mind but are terminally ill or incurably suffering are denied the choice and dignity to die at a time of their choosing.

Details of the decision

Noel’s case is brought using article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as incorporated into UK law by the Human Rights Act 1998, arguing that section 2 of the Suicide Act interferes with his right to private and family life.

Noel’s decision represents some advance over the previous decision, in the challenge brought to the Supreme Court in 2014 by Tony Nicklinson and Paul Lamb.

There, the court decided that as the issue was such a high profile ethical debate, Parliament should first of all have a chance to decide the matter, before the courts do. However, in 2015 the House of Commons rejected an Assisted Dying Bill. Unfortunately, however, the court decided today that preventing Noel from being able to access an assisted death is legitimate under the Convention.

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