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"All I want is the option to die peacefully, with dignity" - Noel Conway loses right to challenge assisted dying law

Noel Conway wants medical assistance to die when he has less than six months left to live and still has the mental capacity to make the decision. Credit: PA

A terminally-ill motor neurone disease sufferer has been refused permission for a challenge over the law on assisted dying at the UK's highest court.

Supreme Court justices rejected a bid by Noel Conway to appeal against an earlier ruling in his fight over current legislation which prevents him from being helped to die.

The 68-year-old, from Shrewsbury, says that being forced to choose between "unacceptable options" to end his life is "barbaric".

He wants medical assistance to die when he has less than six months left to live, still has the mental capacity to make the decision and has made a "voluntary, clear, settled and informed" choice.

Noel Conway, who's 68, has been refused permission for a challenge over the law on assisted dying at the Supreme Court. Credit: PA

Mr Conway lost a Court of Appeal challenge in June against an earlier High Court rejection of his case that the "blanket ban" on assisted dying was an unjustified interference with his human rights.

He sought to challenge that at the Supreme Court and justices took the unusual step of considering his case at a hearing last week.

During that hearing, Mr Conway's lawyers told the court the retired lecturer does not accept that withdrawal of his "non-invasive ventilation" (NIV), which he needs 23 hours a day, would be an acceptable way for him to end his life.

But Lady Hale, Lord Reed and Lord Kerr declined permission for an appeal.

Giving reasons for their decision in a joint statement, they said:

"No-one doubts that the issue is of transcendent public importance.

It touches us all.

We all have to experience the death of people about whom we care.

We all have to contemplate our own death.

Not without some reluctance, it has been concluded that in this case those prospects are not sufficient to justify giving permission to appeal."

– Supreme Court Justices

Mr Conway, who is supported by the campaign group Dignity In Dying, was too unwell to travel to London for the Supreme Court hearing.

He is now dependent on a ventilator for up to 23 hours a day and only has movement in his right hand, head and neck.

In response to today's judgement, Mr Conway said:

“Today’s decision is extremely disappointing. It means that I will not be able to have my arguments heard by the highest court in the land. Dying people like me cannot wait years for another case to be heard.

I am particularly disappointed that the Courts have instead listened to the arguments of doctors who have never met me but think they know best about the end of my life. I have no choice over whether I die; my illness means I will die anyway.

The only option I currently have is to remove my ventilator and effectively suffocate to death under sedation. To me this is not acceptable, and for many other dying people this choice is not available at all.

All I want is the option to die peacefully, with dignity, on my own terms, and I know that the majority of the public are behind me. It is downright cruel to continue to deny me and other terminally ill people this right.

This is the end of the road for my case, so we must now turn our attention back to Parliament. I hope that MPs will listen to the vast majority of their constituents and give people like me a say over our deaths.”

– Noel Conway