Terminally-ill motor neurone disease sufferer Noel Conway, who wants the right to an assisted death, has lost his legal challenge at the Court of Appeal.
The 68-year-old’s case was rejected on Wednesday by three senior judges who concluded Parliament would need to assess “the necessity and proportionality of a blanket ban”.
Reading a summary of the ruling, Sir Terence Etherton said the High Court questioned Conway’s proposed scheme, for fear it was “inadequate to protect the weak and vulnerable” and failed to give enough weight to the “significance of the sanctity of life and to the scheme’s potential to undermine trust and confidence as between doctors and patients”.
Sir Terence added: “From the outset, we emphasise our great respect for him (Conway) and for the dignity and courage which he has shown.”
Speaking after the ruling, Conway, a retired lecturer from Shrewsbury said he now intends to take his fight to the Supreme Court.
He said: “I am naturally disappointed by today’s judgment, though it was not unexpected. I fully intend to appeal it with the support of my legal team.”
He added: “I will keep fighting for myself and all terminally ill people who want the right to die peacefully, with dignity and on our own terms.
“I want to thank my family, friends and members of the public who have shown such overwhelming support and who continue to spur me on in this fight.”
Conway, who is now dependent on a ventilator for up to 23 hours a day and only has movement in his right hand, head and neck, said it is “barbaric” for him to be forced to choose between the “unacceptable options” left open to him for his death.
He said: “This illness has already taken away my ability to breathe independently and I am now almost completely immobile. I know it will also rob me of my life, and I have accepted that. But what I cannot accept are the options I am faced with under the current law.
“I am told that I can choose between letting nature take its course until I am completely unable to move or communicate; hastening my death by removing my ventilator with no guarantee my suffering can be completely relieved; attempting to end my own life at home in potentially painful and traumatic circumstances; or making the arduous and expensive journey to Dignitas and risking prosecution for any loved ones who accompany me.
“It is barbaric to force me to decide between these unacceptable options.”
Conway is a member of Humanists UK and is being supported by Dignity in Dying.
Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying, said: “Although we are disappointed, this outcome was anticipated and we remain undeterred. The judgment confirms that the courts do have the authority to declare the current law inconsistent with human rights, and we will continue to wholeheartedly support Noel and his legal team as they now assess their options for appeal.
Dr Peter Saunders, campaign director of Care Not Killing, said: “This sensible decision by the Court of Appeal yet again recognises that the safest law is the one we already have – a complete ban on assisted suicide and euthanasia.
“Our laws deter the exploitation, abuse and coercion of vulnerable people, who as we have seen in the US states of Oregon and Washington often cite feeling they have become a financial, or care burden as the reason for ending their lives.”