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Judgment denies case permission to proceed

A judgment has today been handed down following a permission hearing on the ‘Noel Conway vs Ministry of Justice’ case, denying permission for the case to proceed.

Responding to the judgment, Noel said:

“I am very disappointed in the court’s decision not to grant my case permission to proceed. Though this is a set back in my fight for rights at the end of my life, I will not be deterred and will be appealing this decision.

“I am fighting for choice and control over my death, because the current ban on assisted dying denies me these rights and forces me to face an unacceptable set of options that most people would balk at in disbelief.

“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. The only alternative is to spend thousands of pounds, travel hundreds of miles and risk incriminating my loved ones in asking them to accompany me to Dignitas. This would also force me to die earlier than I would want.

“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.”

Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying, who are supporting Noel’s case, added:

“We are disappointed with the outcome of the hearing and of course will be supporting Noel in appealing this decision.

“The current law simply does not work and Noel would like the courts to examine the evidence in detail. 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.

“A Crowdfunder launched to help cover Noel’s legal costs has received incredible support – further evidence that the public are firmly behind him. Parliament has refused to engage adequately with the debate on assisted dying. Mr Justice Charles agreed that Noel’s case should have a full hearing; two other judges did not agree. We will continue to support Noel to have his case heard in court, so that judges can consider the overwhelming evidence and the progress made overseas in the last three years. We hope that this decision will be overturned so that Noel’s voice, and the voices of dying people across the country, can be heard.”

Yogi Amin, partner and head of public law at Irwin Mitchell, added:

“The world has changed phenomenally in the past few decades with many medical advances, but the law on assisted dying for those who are terminally ill hasn’t changed for more than 50 years. Naturally we are disappointed, that by a split decision in the court, Noel has not been given permission to put forward his case in court but we will seek permission to appeal.

“Noel wants the law changed so that it respects an individual’s choice about dying with dignity. This situation is clearly traumatic for the individuals involved and their families who are often torn between not wanting to see their loved one suffer and also not wanting to lose them and we commend Noel for his bravery in bringing this important legal case.”

***ENDS***

For photos or information about Noel or interviews with Sarah Wootton of Dignity in Dying please contact Ellie Ball on 0207 479 7732 / 07725 433 025 or ellie.ball@dignityindying.org.uk

For a legal perspective on the case and interviews with Yogi Amin, please contact the Irwin Mitchell press office on 0114 274 4666 or pressoffice@irwinmitchell.com

Notes to Editors

The case

The case is between Noel Conway and the Ministry of Justice. Following a permission hearing on Tuesday 21st March 2017, a judgment was handed down on Thursday 30th 2017 denying permission for the case to proceed. Noel will instruct Irwin Mitchell, with Dignity in Dying’s support, to appeal this decision. If permission is then granted, a full hearing of the case in the High Court would follow.

Legal background

  • A case brought by Tony Nicklinson who suffered from paralysis after a stroke was ultimately dismissed by the Supreme Court in 2014, with judges stating that it was important Parliament debated the issues before any decision to change the law was made by the courts.
  • The case of Omid, who recently sought permission to join Noel’s case, is a separate legal case. Omid 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. Having only asked for permission to intervene in Noel’s case, in order for Omid’s case to progress it will need a separate permissions hearing.
  • Noel’s case is different to the Nicklinson challenge in that Noel has a terminal illness and his legal team are setting out a strict criteria and clear potential safeguards to protect vulnerable people from any abuse of the system. These include:
    • that the adult is suffering a terminal illness diagnosed with six months or less to live;
    • medical evidence confirming the individual has mental capacity to make the decision;
    • evidence of the person’s wishes and that they were informed, clear, settled and voluntary;
    • medical professionals involved would report the assistance given to an appropriate person or organisation;
    • a High Court judge could be asked to confirm the criteria has been met.

International developments

  • Following developments this year, six states in the USA are covered by assisted dying legislation.
    • On the 9th of June 2016 California implemented the End of Life Options Act, which was signed into law on the 11th of September 2015, the same day that an Assisted Dying Bill was defeated in the UK’s House of Commons.
    • On the 8th of November 2016 the people of Colorado voted in favour of implementing a similar Act.
    • On the 15th of November 2016 the Council of the District of Columbia approved its own assisted dying Bill. The Mayor must now vote on whether to approve it.
  • Canada passed legislation on the 18th of June 2016 which allows adults with a serious and incurable disease in enduring and intolerable suffering to request an assisted death.

About Irwin Mitchell

Irwin Mitchell is over 100 years old and is one of the largest law firms in the UK. Last year Irwin Mitchell merged with Thomas Eggar LLP expanding its presence in London and the South East and has also acquired specialist Personal Injury firm MPH Solicitors and private wealth firm Berkeley Law in the past few years. The firm is ranked as a market-leading personal legal services firm in the independent Legal 500 and Chambers UK guides to UK law with over 100 lawyers personally recommended.
Irwin Mitchell Scotland LLP is a separate Scottish legal practice regulated by the Law Society of Scotland and has an office in Glasgow.

For more information, visit www.irwinmitchell.com

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.

For more information, visit www.dignityindying.org.uk