Court rules against man’s right to die
10 October 2017 by Andrea Godfrey
I previously reported on the case of Noel Conway (age 67) who is a retired college lecturer and who was diagnosed in 2014 with motor neurone disease. He is dependent on a ventilator but has mental capacity. He wants to utilise the assistance of a medical profession to end his life however assisted dying is a criminal offence in this country.
The Court previously said that changing the law was a matter for Parliament however in September 2015, the Members of Parliament rejected for a right to die in England and Wales. Mr Conway then successfully appealed the right for a review and the case was remitted to the High Court and this is the first such case since Parliament’s vote rejecting the right. He was seeking a declaration that the Suicide Act 1961 is incompatible with article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (respect for private and family life). Yesterday the Court reached a decision and rejected his case.
They agreed with the submission of the barrister for the Secretary of State for Justice that the prohibition of assisted suicide is necessary to “protect the weak and vulnerable”. The example the Court used was cases where a family have a discussion about money issues which are not necessarily meant to place pressure on an elderly person but the may conclude that they are a burden and therefore better off dead. The Court stated “it might be difficult to disentangle factors of external pressure from the individual’s own internal thought processes and difficult to tell when external pressure is illegitimate or such as to invalidate the individual’s own choice to die.”
Further, the Court agreed with his submission that there is a protection of trust between a doctor and a patient. The evidence before the Court was a concern amongst doctors that patients would have less confidence in them and the advice they give if the rules against doctors allowing to assist with dying was lifted.
The Court dismissed Mr Conway’s application for a declaration of incompatibility between the Suicide Act and Article 8. Mr Conway may appeal.
In this country you can make a Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) so your family can stay in charge of health issues, The LPA will allow you to elect whether your attorney (family, friends etc) can make decisions or whether medical professionals would be the decision makers. This includes decisions regarding whether or not you receive life sustaining treatment, but cannot include reference to assisted dying.
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