Overview of the demonstration
On 14th July 2017, 200 people gathered on a boat at Westminster to show their support for the courageous Noel Conway. Noel has terminal motor neurone disease and is currently fighting to challenge the law on assisted dying, supported by Dignity in Dying.
The demonstration was devised to raise awareness of the case but also to highlight that Noel is not alone in his fight. Attendees held up placards with the hashtag #ImWithNoel, each showing solidarity and support for the movement for their own personal reasons. Some were there to support family or friends and some were there purely because they feel that not having a choice is an injustice in itself, but the common thread was undoubtedly Noel. The demonstration endeavours to encourage anyone who agrees with the principles of the movement to outwardly declare their support and stand by Noel, giving him and many others affected the one choice they need.
Noel Conway commented:
“I want to thank everyone who has demonstrated today for this wonderful support. 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.”
Overview of case
Noel believes the current law is broken and that terminally ill, mentally competent adults should have the right to request an assisted death.
Noel’s case is a judicial review to ask for a declaration of incompatibility. This means that Noel’s legal team will ask the courts to declare that the blanket ban on assisted dying under the Suicide Act 1961 is contrary to his rights under the Human Rights Act. They will argue that as a terminally ill, mentally competent adult, Noel’s right to a private life – which includes the right to make decisions on the end of his life – is unnecessarily restricted by the blanket ban in the 1961 Act.
The case will be heard at the Royal Courts of Justice in London from Monday 17th to Thursday 20th July.
Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying, commented:
“The British public overwhelmingly support a change in the law to give terminally ill, mentally competent adults like Noel the choice of an assisted death. The huge turnout for Noel and his family today is yet another demonstration of that support.
“Noel, supported by Dignity in Dying and his legal team, has had to fight hard to get his case heard. We are indebted to Noel and his family for devoting so much time and energy to this case and we look forward to next week’s High Court hearing which will consider detailed evidence and legal arguments about whether the current law breaches Noel’s human rights.”
For further information or interviews with representatives from Dignity in Dying, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org / 07725 433 025 / 0207 479 7732 or email@example.com / 0207 479 7734
The hearing will begin at 10.30am at the Royal Courts of Justice on The Strand, London on Monday 17th July. Photos and interviews will be available with spokespeople, witnesses and case studies (though please note Noel Conway will not be in attendance).
About the case
Noel Conway, 67, from Shrewsbury, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a form of motor neurone disease, in November 2014. His condition is incurable and terminal – he is not expected to live beyond the next 12 months.
Noel feels that he is prevented from exercising his right to choice and control over his death under the current law. He fears that without a change in the law he may be forced to suffer against his wishes. Noel is bringing this case against the Ministry of Justice to fight for his right to have the option of an assisted death when he is in his final six months of life. Dignity in Dying is funding and supporting Noel’s case.
Noel attended the High Court on March 21st to request permission to bring a legal case.
On Thursday 30th March 2017, a decision was handed down denying permission for the case to proceed. Noel Conway’s legal team successfully appealed this decision on Tuesday 11th April 2017, meaning the case will proceed to a full hearing at the High Court. A directions hearing on Monday 22nd May 2017 determined the procedural arrangements for the High Court hearing, namely that it will take place in the week commencing the 17th of July 2017 over five days, heard by three judges. The courts close for summer on Monday 31st July, and reopen on Monday 2nd October. It is anticipated that a decision will be published on the Conway case after the summer recess.
Also on the morning of Monday 22nd May, the court considered the case of Omid T, a separate legal case to that of Noel Conway. Omid T does not have a terminal diagnosis and is calling for assisted suicide to be made available to anyone who is suffering unbearably, not just those who are dying. His case was granted permission to proceed but it will not be joined with Noel Conway’s and is not due to be heard until after the judgment on Mr Conway’s case has been handed down.
About Dignity in Dying
Dignity in Dying campaigns for greater choice, control and access to services at the end of life. It advocates providing terminally ill adults with the option of an assisted death, within strict legal safeguards, and for universal access to high quality end-of-life care.