A panel of the UK Supreme Court on Tuesday declined an emergency application submitted by Noel Conway, who suffers from a terminal motor neurone disease, challenging the Suicide Act of 1961, which makes assisted dying illegal.
The panel, although finding that this case present “an arguable point of law of general public important which ought to be heard by the Supreme Court” and that the law interference with the right to respect for private life guaranteed under Article 8, found that if the case were to proceed it would be unlikely that Conway would see a ruling in his favor.
The panel noted however that Conway “could bring about his own death … by refusing consent to the continuation of his [non-invasive ventilation],” calling such actions an “absolute right at common law.” The panel did acknowledge that if Conway were to take this route it could take hours and be quite painful before death, a result Conway wants to avoid.
In March 2017 a panel on the UK court of appeals declined Conway’s motion for the right to seek his own death. During that time, he was only expected to live another 12 months. The court however ruled that it is “institutionally inappropriate” to determine incompatibility between the UK law and Articles 8 and 14 of the Human Rights Act of 1998. However, in April 2017 the UK Court of Appeal ruled that Conway can proceed with his challenge of the UK law to the High Court. In October 2017 the High Court of Justice rejected his petition for assistance to due, thereby upholding the UK law which makes assisted suicide illegal. The court found that the ruling was necessary “to protect the weak and vulnerable.”