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.”

Contributor

Harriet Sherwood

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Assisted suicide campaigner Debbie Purdy dies aged 51
Activist won landmark ruling that led to clarification of law on right to die

Mark Tran

29, Dec, 2014 @6:11 PM

Article image
Guernsey parliament votes against assisted dying
Proposal sought to restrict euthanasia to people with less than six months to live and full mental capacity

Harriet Sherwood

18, May, 2018 @12:49 PM

Article image
High court rejects challenge to ban on assisted dying
Noel Conway, 67, who is terminally ill, wanted judicial review of ban that prevents him ending his own life without protracted pain

Owen Bowcott Legal affairs correspondent

30, Mar, 2017 @10:34 AM

Article image
Law banning assisted dying must be reviewed, say MPs
Cross-party group responds to calls by police chief Ron Hogg, who has motor neurone disease

Vikram Dodd Police and crime correspondent

30, Oct, 2019 @4:46 PM

Article image
Legal challenge on assisted dying prompts rival London protests
Noel Conway, who has motor neurone disease, wants right to choose when his life should end

Owen Bowcott Legal affairs correspondent

01, May, 2018 @12:56 PM

Article image
UK patients 'suffering as they cannot afford assisted dying overseas'
With many spending their final months in pain, a campaigner says: ‘This is not how a civilised country should treat its citizens’

Matthew Taylor

13, Nov, 2017 @12:01 AM

Article image
Terminally ill former lecturer wins right to fight assisted dying ban
Appeal court reverses high court ruling in case of Noel Conway, who has motor neurone disease and seeks judicial review

Owen Bowcott Legal affairs correspondent

12, Apr, 2017 @10:43 AM

Article image
Top UK brain surgeon calls for urgent inquiry into assisted dying
Henry Marsh reveals he has advanced prostate cancer and says law ‘insists I must suffer’

Harriet Sherwood

01, Apr, 2021 @12:16 PM

Article image
Ex-MP Frank Field reveals terminal illness as he backs assisted dying
Peer says in statement at assisted dying bill reading he changed his mind on issue after seeing a friend die of cancer

Lucy Campbell

22, Oct, 2021 @5:26 PM

Article image
Guernsey could be first place in British Isles to allow assisted dying
Parliament to vote on proposals to allow some terminally ill people to end their lives with help of a doctor

Harriet Sherwood

21, Mar, 2018 @11:44 AM