Assisted Dying: Can I help a relative to end their life?

A recent decision by the Court of Appeal upheld an earlier High Court decision to deny a man, suffering from motor neurone disease, assistance in ending his life.

Noel Conway’s condition means that he must rely on a ventilator to breathe for up to 23 hours per day. He also has severely restricted mobility, with movement in only his right hand, neck and head.

Mr Conway proposed that he could make the decision to end his life, with assistance, if he was making “voluntary, clear, settled and informed” decision. It would seem that the court disagreed.

The court stated that Parliament was in a better position to determine the “necessity and proportionality of a blanket ban” on assisted dying. It is a position that has been upheld despite several challenges over the years. Cases including those of Diane Pretty and Debbie Purdey and proposed legislation in the form of Lord Falconer’s and Rob Marris’s respective Assisted Dying Bills have all attempted to change this area of law.

Assisted suicide, in England and Wales, is a crime punishable with up to 14 years in prison.

However, it is up to Director of Public Prosecutions and the Crown Prosecution Service to decide whether it is in the public interest to pursue such a prosecution. Policy dictates that a distinction should be made between compassionate and malicious acts. Therefore, somebody that helps a loved one to end their life may not necessarily face prosecution.

For as long as prosecution remains a risk, however, campaigners believe that the rules need to change. They want assisted dying to become decriminalised.

Mr Conway has vowed to “keep fighting for myself and all terminally-ill people who want the right to die peacefully, with dignity and on our own terms.”

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This news article is written by our legal content writer Mr James Chalkley (LLB, LLM). You can contact Mr James through “contact” on our website.

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