Changing the law on assisted dying
My name is Noel Conway. I was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in November 2014. My condition is incurable and terminal. I know I will deteriorate until my breathing stops altogether or I become completely paralysed. I am faced with a death that I see as intolerable.
With the support of Dignity in Dying, I have launched a legal challenge to the current law in England and Wales which bans assisted dying and denies me choice and control over my own death. I have chosen to take this case because I feel very strongly that the current law does not respect my human rights, and that dying people like me deserve a choice in how and when we die.
Eventually this disease will kill me. I can’t change what’s going to happen; I’m going to die anyway. It’s a question of whether people like me can decide to die on our own terms or not.
The current law is broken:
- it allows me to kill myself, but does not allow me access to a pain-free and medically prescribed means of death;
- it allows me to travel abroad to obtain a medically supervised assisted death, but anyone who helps me could face criminal investigation;
- it allows a doctor to relieve my suffering by giving me a life-shortening dose of medication (the practice of double effect), but does not allow a doctor to prescribe medication to allow me to control my death at a time of my choosing.
Because I cannot end my own life without some assistance, I am faced with severely restricted choices and with a death that to me would be unacceptable.
During the last Parliament, MPs were presented with an opportunity to reform the law and create a more compassionate approach that would have entrusted me with the choice to control my death. They refused to do so. That is why I have launched a legal challenge.
My case will ask the courts to make a declaration that the blanket ban on assisted dying is incompatible with the rights of dying people like me. Even with that declaration, however, MPs will have an integral role on agreeing a new law. That’s why it’s important that people standing for election know the strength of feeling in the country.
82 per cent of Britons want to see a change to allow this. Hundreds, if not thousands, of terminally ill people like me would find reassurance in knowing this option was available to them. No more families would be left with the memories of the undignified deaths of their loved ones. We all deserve better in our last weeks and months of life.
I’m not just trying to change the law just for myself. Even if my case is successful, it may not come in time for me. I want the law to change so that dying people, and our country as a whole, can say we live in a land that offers people real choice when they face suffering at the end of life. I know we would, and I hope we can, benefit hugely from such a change.
As the election approaches, we need to be sure that MPs in the next Parliament are fully informed of the huge support for our campaign and the need for a new law.
Please contact your candidates and tell them that you support assisted dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults.