Noel Conway, assisted dying campaigner, dies at home aged 71

Conway, who had motor neurone disease, chose to remove ventilator with support of family and hospice

Noel Conway, a retired lecturer who campaigned against the ban on assisted dying after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease, has died at the age of 71.

Conway died on Wednesday at his home in Garmston, Shropshire, after making a decision to remove his ventilator with the support of his family and a local hospice, the campaign organisation Dignity in Dying said.

In a statement released after his death, Conway said he had had “no alternative to ending my life without pain and suffering and without compromising others”.

His statement said: “When you read this I will be dead … 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’m already a 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.”

It was “perfectly legitimate to remove a ventilator from someone like me”, he said.

“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 who are terminally ill with cancers and other horrible diseases which make 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 … It can only be a question of time before assisted dying will be approved in the UK.”

Conway launched a legal challenge for the right to die in 2018, claiming that the 1961 Suicide Act condemned him to an undignified and terrifying death. Assisted suicide is prohibited under the act, and voluntary euthanasia is considered murder under UK law.

He took his campaign to the supreme court, but lost the appeal.

His wife, Carol, said on Friday that her husband had a painless and dignified death. “Noel was in control, which was so important. However, the uncertainty over how long this would take for Noel and what he might experience presented us all with considerable anxiety,” she said.

Sarah Wootton, the chief executive of Dignity in Dying, said: “Noel fought in the courts, lobbied parliamentarians and spoke powerfully to the media about his suffering under the UK’s blanket ban on assisted dying, all the while knowing any change would most likely come too late for him.”


Harriet Sherwood

The GuardianTramp

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