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Noel Conway wins appeal to challenge law on assisted dying

The appeal was successful and the decision was overturned. Noel’s case will now proceed to a full hearing in the High Court.

On Thursday 30th March 2017, a decision was handed down on the ‘Noel Conway vs Ministry of Justice’ case denying permission for it to proceed. Noel Conway’s legal team appealed this decision and a hearing took place on Tuesday 11th April 2017. The appeal was successful and the decision was overturned. Noel’s case will now proceed to a full hearing in the High Court.

A separate campaign was recently launched as a way for people to show their support for Noel in his upcoming legal battle – you can pledge your support below:

Noel said:

“I am delighted that my case will now proceed to the next stage. Clearly the Court of Appeal has agreed that this is an issue deserving full and proper consideration and I look forward to a full hearing at the High Court.

“Having overcome this initial setback in my fight for choice at the end of life, I am more determined than ever to continue. I have the support of my loved ones and many thousands of others behind me; people who have donated over £90,000 towards my legal costs and sent heart-warming messages of encouragement to me and my family.

“I have lived my whole life on my own terms, in control of the choices and decisions I make. Why then, when I am facing my final months, should these rights be stripped away from me, leaving me at the mercy of a cruel illness? I know I am going to die anyway, but how and when should be up to me. To have the option of an assisted death available in this country would provide me and countless others with great reassurance and comfort. It would allow me to decide when I am ready to go, rather than be forced into a premature death by travelling to Dignitas at great emotional and financial cost, or to suffer a traumatic, drawn out death at home.”

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

“We are pleased that Noel’s case will now get the full and proper hearing it deserves at the High Court.

“The current law simply does not work for dying people or their families. Terminally ill Britons are being forced to suffer against their wishes or take drastic measures at home and abroad in order to wrest back control over their deaths. People like Noel deserve choice and control at the end of life but the law denies them these basic rights.

“Noel, supported by Dignity in Dying, wants the courts to examine the evidence in full, taking into account the failure of Parliament to adequately engage with this issue and the progress made overseas in recent years.

“Noel and his family have received overwhelming support so far – the huge sums raised on a Crowdfunder for his legal costs are testament to this. Clearly there is great appetite for change; indeed 82% of the public would support a law to allow assisted dying as an option for terminally ill, mentally competent adults1.

“We are indebted to Noel and his family for devoting their time and energy to this hugely important case. We now call on the courts to proceed as a matter of urgency – not only for Noel’s sake but also because this is an issue that simply cannot be ignored any longer.”

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.

“We are pleased the Court of Appeal has today agreed that there is merit in hearing Noel’s case. He is an extremely brave and proud man who is supported by his loving family. He would like the choice to be able to die with dignity.”

***ENDS***

For photos or information about Noel or interviews with representatives 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
1 https://www.dignityindying.org.uk/news/poll-assisted-dying/

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 instructed Irwin Mitchell, with Dignity in Dying’s support, to appeal this decision. The appeal was successful, and the case will now proceed to a full hearing at the High Court.

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. Omid asked for permission to intervene in Noel’s case in March but permission to bring a case was not granted to Noel at that hearing. 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 http://www.dignityindying.org.uk/