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Noel Conway wins permission to appeal his assisted dying case

Humanist and assisted dying campaigner Noel Conway.

Noel Conway has today won permission to appeal the decision of the High Court that he cannot be assisted to die with dignity. The decision means that Humanists UK member Noel, who suffers from motor neurone disease, will now have his case heard before the Court of Appeal. Humanists UK, which intervened in the case at the High Court in his support, has welcomed the decision, and intends to intervene again.

Noel, who is supported by Dignity in Dying, is challenging the illegality of assisted dying for those who are terminally ill and have six months or fewer to live. In October the High Court rejected his case and refused him permission to appeal its decision to the Court of Appeal, but that was overturned today by the Court of Appeal itself.

Separately, another Humanists UK member, ‘Omid T’, is bringing a case to also challenge the fact that those who are incurably suffering cannot access an assisted death. Humanists UK is applying to also intervene in Omid’s claim, which is due to start its hearings before the High Court in March.

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘We welcome today’s decision by the Court of Appeal and very much hope look forward to Noel’s case being heard. It is vital that those who are of sound mind but are terminally ill or incurably suffering are given the choice to die with dignity at a time of their choosing. The public overwhelmingly supports such a change, and it’s long past time the law caught up with this fact.’

Details of the decision

Noel’s case is brought using article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as incorporated into UK law by the Human Rights Act 1998, arguing that section 2 of the Suicide Act interferes with his right to private and family life.

Noel’s decision at the High Court represents some advance over the previous decision, in the challenge brought to the Supreme Court in 2014 by Tony Nicklinson and Paul Lamb. There, the court decided that as the issue was such a high profile ethical debate, Parliament should first of all have a chance to decide the matter, before the courts do. However, in 2015 the House of Commons rejected an Assisted Dying Bill. So, the judges decided for the first time that the court should now engage with the substantial issues at hand. Unfortunately, however, the court decided that preventing Noel from being able to access an assisted death is legitimate under the Convention.

Humanists UK has been represented in its intervention by Nancy Collins of Hodge Jones & Allen LLP alongside Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC and Graeme Hall, both of Doughty Street Chambers. Humanists UK made written and oral submissions.

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact BHA Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at richy@humanism.org.uk or on 0781 55 89 636.

Read Humanists UK’s previous comment, on the conclusion of the High Court hearing: https://humanism.org.uk/2017/07/20/noel-conways-assisted-dying-hearing-concludes-in-high-court/

Read more about Humanists UK’s campaigns work on assisted dying: http://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/public-ethical-issues/assisted-dying/

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

Humanists UK recently changed its name from the British Humanist Association: https://humanism.org.uk/2017/05/22/bha-becomes-humanists-uk/

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