Thursday, 20 July 2017

Britain is no country for old men like Noel Conway who wish to live no older

Noel Conway, who, at 67 years old, is scarce old, wants to die or rather he wants the right to die at a time of his own choosing, but as the law stands in Britain at the moment, he cannot do this. If a doctor was to help him end his life, he would face 14 years in prison. He wants this right because he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2014. His condition is incurable and he is not expected to live beyond the next 12 months. He has said : “I am going to die, and I have come to terms with this fact. But what I do not accept is being denied the ability to decide the timing and manner of my death. I am not prepared to suffer right to the end, nor do I want to endure a long, drawn-out death in a haze of morphine."

His High Court Hearing, in which three senior judges will consider his plea to be allowed to arrange his death, began this week and is scheduled to last five days. Noel is supported by 'Dignity in Dying' and other organisations campaigning to change the 1961 Suicide Act. Last week several hundred supporters staged a protest on a Thames river boat outside the Houses of Parliament after which he said : “In the past months I have been struck by the number of people who, like me, want the right to choose how we die. Today has shown the huge strength of feeling of people who want the right to a dignified death.”

People like Noel, who seek help to end their lives, are currently forced to travel to a clinic in Switzerland and at the moment one person a fortnight travels to Dignitas from Britain to do just that.

Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of Humanists UK, said : “It is completely wrong that people who are of sound mind but terminally ill or incurably suffering are denied the choice to die with dignity. The deliberate extension of suffering as a matter of public policy is a stain on our humanity. The majority of the public want change but as long as Parliament is unwilling to act, it is up to brave individuals such as Noel to fight for all our rights. We will always stand with such courageous and public-spirited champions.”

Noel's lawyers will ask the Court to declare that the blanket ban on assisted dying under the Suicide Act is contrary to the Human Rights Act and will argue that as a terminally ill, mentally competent adult, his right to a private life, which includes the right to make decisions on the end of his life, is unnecessarily restricted by current laws. His aim is to bring about a change in the law that would legalise assisted dying for those who are terminally ill and are assessed as having six months or less to live.

The last time a right to die case was considered in detail by the courts was in 2014 when the Supreme Court asked Parliament to reconsider the issue and after debating the subject, Parliament rejected making any changes to the law.

“The option of an assisted death should be available to me, here in this country, in my final six months of life – this is what I am fighting for. It would bring immense peace of mind and allow me to live my life to the fullest, enjoying my final months with my loved ones until I decide the time is right for me to go."

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