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Terminally ill campaigner renews court fight over assisted dying law

A motor neurone disease sufferer is to continue his battle against the law on assisted dying at the Court of Appeal.

Earlier this month, retired college lecturer Noel Conway was refused permission to bring a judicial review.

Mr Conway, 67, from Shrewsbury, was diagnosed in November 2014 and is not expected to live beyond the next 12 months.

His lawyers say that when he has less than six months to live and retains the mental capacity to make the decision, "he would wish to be able to enlist assistance to bring about a peaceful and dignified death".

At present there is a blanket prohibition on providing a person with assistance to die.

Mr Conway wants a declaration that the Suicide Act 1961 is incompatible with Article 8, which relates to respect for private and family life, and Article 14, which protects from discrimination.

But two out of three judges hearing his case at London's High Court ruled against him.

On Tuesday, his legal team will ask Lord Justice McFarlane and Lord Justice Beatson for permission to appeal that decision.

The proceedings came in the wake of an action brought by Tony Nicklinson, who suffered from paralysis after a stroke.

That was ultimately dismissed in 2014 by the Supreme Court, which said it was important that Parliament debated the issues before any decision was made by the courts.

In the High Court, Lord Justice Burnett, who described Mr Conway's stance as "truly selfless", said it remained "institutionally inappropriate" for a court to make a declaration of incompatibility.

Had Parliament done nothing after the Nicklinson case, Mr Conway's case for permission would be "unanswerable" however it might fare on further investigation.

But, both the House of Commons and the House of Lords had debated the issue, with the result that Parliament had decided, at least for the moment, not to provide for legislative exceptions to the 1961 Act.

Sarah Wootton, chief executive of Dignity in Dying, which supports Mr Conway's case, said: "Parliament has so far ignored the pleas of dying people like Noel and the overwhelming majority of the public who also support a change in the law on assisted dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults in their final six months of life.

"And that is precisely why we will continue to fight for it."

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