NEWS ARTICLE

My Death, My Decision marks the death of assisted dying campaigner Noel Conway

Following the death of determined campaigner Noel Conway last week, My Death, My Decision offers condolences to his friends and family. 

In 2018, Noel, who had been suffering from Motor Neurone Disease (MND), brought a case challenging the law prohibiting assisted dying in England and Wales. The former lecturer from Shrewsbury was dependent upon a ventilator to breathe for up to 23 hours a day, and only had limited movement in his right hand, head, and neck. He argued the current law on assisted dying was an intrusion into his rights to privacy and therefore incompatible with the Human Rights Act 1998. 

However, his case was rejected by the Court of Appeal and subsequently refused permission for appeal by the Supreme Court. The courts decided that Noel’s condition meant he did not require a change in the law, because he would have already been able to hasten his death by removing his ventilator. Sadly, that is what our barbaric laws forced him to do.

In a statement Noel requested to be released upon his death, he said: 

‘When you read this I will be dead. Not because I have suffered a tragic accident or died from a long-standing or painful disease. No, it will be because I have made a conscious and deliberate effort to end my own life. I suffer from MND and was diagnosed over six years ago knowing that at some stage I would reach a point when my muscles would have deteriorated to such an extent that I could not function effectively. Over the past two months, it has become increasingly evident to me that the balance of fulfilment in life, or if you like, my quality of life, has dipped into the negative. My voice has depleted to the extent that many people cannot now tell what I say and my eyesight recently deteriorated. I am already paraplegic and I cannot use my hands or fingers but I am aware that my neck muscles are weakening as are my mouth and speech muscles. I recognise that the time has come to take the decision now to do something about this.

‘Under UK law it is perfectly legitimate to remove a ventilator from someone like me. This is not something I would have chosen but I feel that I have no alternative to ending my life without pain and suffering and without compromising others. However, my heart goes out to all those people with terminal cancers and other horrible diseases which makes their lives execrable because they can’t find any release from their terrible suffering. I have spent the last several years campaigning to have the law changed. The topic has been aired nationally and is much more prominent now than it ever was. I am glad that Parliament is continuing to discuss it and investigate possibilities of an assisted dying law in line with many other countries over the last few years. It can only be a question of time before assisted dying will be approved in the UK.’

Responding to Noel’s death, My Death, My Decision’s Chair Trevor Moore said: 

‘It is with great sadness that we hear of Noel’s death. Noel was a committed advocate for legal assisted dying, and did significant work to advance the campaign in the media, parliament, and with the public at large. Throughout his case, Noel had been clear that he viewed the prospect of ending his life by removing his ventilator, and effectively suffocating to death under sedation, as neither acceptable nor dignified. 

‘Although we are pleased Noel was able to die peacefully and on his own terms, the stark nature of his options should serve as a powerful reminder of the cruelty those who are terminally ill or incurably suffering continue to face on a daily basis. Our deepest condolences to Noel Conway’s friends and family.’ 

Notes:

For any more information or comment please contact Keiron McCabe, My Death, My Decision’s Campaigns and Communications Manager at keiron.mccabe@mydeath-mydecision.org.uk or phone 07396694470.

About My Death, My Decision

Read more about My Death, My Decision’s campaign for an inclusive change in the law: https://www.mydeath-mydecision.org.uk/

My Death, My Decision is a grassroots non-profit organisation that campaigns for a balanced and compassionate approach to assisted dying in England and Wales. As a growing movement, we are at the forefront of social change: nearly 90% of the public now favours a change in the law to allow adults of sound mind, who are either terminally ill or facing incurable suffering, the option of a peaceful, painless, and dignified death.