“Assisted dying” and Article 8 again – Conway v S of S for Justice

Mr Noel Conway, who is 67 and suffering from motor neurone disease, has lost the latest round in his bid to allow doctors to prescribe him a lethal dose of drugs when his health deteriorates further. His legal team had argued that he faced a stark and unfair choice: he could either bring about his own death while still physically able to do so, or await death with no control over how and when it came.

In R (Conway) v The Secretary of State for Justice [2017] EWHC 2447 (Admin), Sales LJ and Whipple and Garnham JJ declined to interfere with the prohibition on assisting suicide in section 2 of the Suicide Act 1961, as amended by the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 (“section 2”). In brief:

“As the conscience of the nation, Parliament is entitled to maintain in place a clear bright-line rule which forbids people from providing assistance to an individual to commit suicide. Parliament was and is entitled to decide that the clarity of such a moral position could only be achieved by means of such a rule. Although views about this vary in society, we think that the legitimacy of Parliament deciding to maintain such a clear line that people should not seek to intervene to hasten the death of a human is not open to serious doubt. Parliament is entitled to make the assessment that it should protect moral standards in society by issuing clear and unambiguous laws which reflect and embody such standards [112].

Further, we consider that Parliament is entitled to maintain section 2 in place as a measure which promotes trust between doctors and patients. Again, there is a good evidential case which has been made available to Parliament, particularly in the form of the BMA’s survey and report and the BGS’s paper, which supports the need for a clear rule prohibiting provision of assistance for suicide in order to safeguard and reinforce that relationship of trust” [113].

Their Lordships concluded that section 2 was compatible with Mr Conway’s rights under Article 8 ECHR (respect for private and family life) and dismissed his application for a declaration of incompatibility.

Cite this article as: Frank Cranmer, "“Assisted dying” and Article 8 again – Conway v S of S for Justice" in Law & Religion UK, 5 October 2017, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2017/10/05/assisted-dying-and-article-8-again-conway-v-s-of-s-for-justice/



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