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UK court declines bid to create legal 'right to die'

[JURIST] A UK court of appeals declined [judgment, PDF] on Thursday to allow a man with a terminal disease the right to seek his own death. Noel Conway [Twitter profile] has terminal motor neurone disease and is only expected to live another 12 months. Conway asked the court to find that the Suicide Act of 1961 [text] is in conflict with Articles 8 and 14 of the Human Rights Act of 1998 [text], which relate to respect for private and family life, and protection from discrimination, respectively. Under current UK law, suicide and assisted suicide are illegal. The court ruled 2-1 that it is "institutionally inappropriate" to determine incompatibility between pieces of legislation. However, Lord Justice Burnett wrote, "My conclusion does nothing to diminish the deep sympathy I feel for Mr Conway, his family and others who are confronted with the reality of living and dying with incurable degenerative conditions." Conway has announced will appeal the decision.

The right to die is a contentious issue worldwide. In January French lawmakers approved [JURIST report] a bill that will allow physicians to keep terminally ill patients sedated until death, opting not to extend the bill to cover physician-assisted suicide. In December the Court of Appeals of Quebec overturned [JURIST report] a lower court injunction and ruled that Quebec's physician-assisted death law is not in conflict with any elements of the Quebec Criminal Code. In November German lawmakers approved a bill [JURIST report] allowing assisted suicide for "altruistic motives" but banning the practice in cases where it is being conducted on a "business" basis. The month before California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation [JURIST report] that provides terminally ill patients the right to die. Last May a Dutch court cleared [JURIST report] a man of all criminal charges for assisting his 99-year-old mother in committing suicide.

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