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Terminally-ill man to continue fight against law on assisted dying

Noel Conway, 68, who has motor neurone disease and wants to be helped to die, said he intends to take his case to the Supreme Court.

Noel Conway has vowed to continue his fight for a “peaceful and dignified death” after losing his Court of Appeal challenge against the law on assisted dying.

The 68-year-old retired lecturer from Shrewsbury, who has motor neurone disease, said being forced to choose between “unacceptable options” to end his life is “barbaric”.

He wants help to die – which the law prevents – when he has less than six months left to live, still has the mental capacity to make the decision and has made a “voluntary, clear, settled and informed” decision.

He proposed that he could only receive assistance to die if a High Court judge determined that he met all three of those criteria.

Mr Conway challenged an earlier High Court rejection of his case at a hearing in May, arguing the “blanket ban” against assisted dying was an unjustified interference with his human rights.

But his appeal was rejected on Wednesday by three senior judges – Master of the Rolls Sir Terence Etherton, Sir Brian Leveson and Lady Justice King.

Mr Conway said he now intends to take his fight to the Supreme Court.

In a statement, he said: “I am naturally disappointed by today’s judgment, though it was not unexpected.

I will keep fighting for myself and all terminally ill people who want the right to die peacefully, with dignity and on our own terms Noel Conway

“I fully intend to appeal it with the support of my legal team.”

He added: “I will keep fighting for myself and all terminally ill people who want the right to die peacefully, with dignity and on our own terms.

“I want to thank my family, friends and members of the public who have shown such overwhelming support and who continue to spur me on in this fight.”

Mr Conway, who is supported by the campaign group Dignity in Dying, was too unwell to travel to London for the hearing.

He is now dependent on a ventilator for up to 23 hours a day and only has movement in his right hand, head and neck.

Mr Conway cites his current options as to “effectively suffocate” by choosing to remove his ventilator or spend thousands travelling to Switzerland to end his life and have his family risk prosecution.

He said: “This illness has already taken away my ability to breathe independently and I am now almost completely immobile.

“I know it will also rob me of my life, and I have accepted that.

“But what I cannot accept are the options I am faced with under the current law.

“I am told that I can choose between letting nature take its course until I am completely unable to move or communicate; hastening my death by removing my ventilator with no guarantee my suffering can be completely relieved; attempting to end my own life at home in potentially painful and traumatic circumstances; or making the arduous and expensive journey to Dignitas and risking prosecution for any loved ones who accompany me.

“It is barbaric to force me to decide between these unacceptable options.”

We express our deep sympathy with Mr Conway's circumstances and our profound respect for the dignified and resolute way in which he has been coping with what is a terrible disease Sir Terence Etherton, Master of the Rolls

Announcing the decision, Sir Terence said the court concluded it is not as well placed as Parliament to determine the “necessity and proportionality of a blanket ban”.

He also said the High Court had evidence before it from which it could find that Mr Conway’s proposed scheme was “inadequate to protect the weak and vulnerable” and failed to give enough weight to the “significance of the sanctity of life and to the scheme’s potential to undermine trust and confidence as between doctors and patients”.

The judge added: “We express our deep sympathy with Mr Conway’s circumstances and our profound respect for the dignified and resolute way in which he has been coping with what is a terrible disease.”

Mr Conway’s appeal was opposed by the Secretary of State for Justice, with Humanists UK, Care Not Killing and Not Dead Yet UK also making submissions.

Dr Peter Saunders, campaign director of Care Not Killing, said: “This sensible decision by the Court of Appeal yet again recognises that the safest law is the one we already have – a complete ban on assisted suicide and euthanasia.”

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