Assisting suicide: leave to appeal granted in R (Conway)

As readers will no doubt be aware, Mr Noel Conway, who is 68, has suffered from a form of Motor Neurone Disease since about 2012 and wishes to end his life at a time of his own choosing because, as he explained:

“At some point, my breathing will stop altogether or I will become so helpless that I will be effectively entombed in my own body. I would not like to live like this. I would find it a totally undignified state for me to live in. I find the prospect of this state for me to live quite unacceptable and I wish to end my life when I feel it is the right moment to do so, in a way that is swift and dignified.”

In October, in R (Conway) v The Secretary of State for Justice [2017] EWHC 2447 (Admin), a Divisional Court – 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. They concluded, in brief, that Parliament was entitled to maintain a bright-line rule forbidding people from assisting in suicide [112 & 113] and that s.2 of the Suicide Act 1961, as amended by the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, 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.

The Court of Appeal (Sir Ernest Ryder, Senior President of Tribunals, and Underhill LJ) has now granted Mr Conway permission to appeal from the Divisional Court to the Court of Appeal: see Conway v The Secretary of State for Justice [2017] EWCA Civ 16. The appeal will be heard on the under the terms of the following Direction:

“Upon the basis that as presently advised neither party seeks to call oral evidence or to cross-examine any witness

And upon the basis that the parties will co-operate to identify areas of agreement and disagreement as regards the expert evidence:

  1. We give Mr. Conway permission to add ground 1 to his appeal.
  2. We grant permission to appeal on all grounds.
  3. We direct that there be expedition in the hearing of the appeal.
  4. We direct that the appeal shall be heard by 3 Lord or Lady Justices of Appeal with a time estimate of one full court week to include reading time on a date to be fixed.
  5. We direct that the Secretary of State shall file and serve any Respondent’s Notice within 14 days of today, if so advised.
  6. We direct that any party seeking permission to intervene shall file and serve their application within 14 days of today attaching if possible a proposed skeleton argument and any evidence upon which they seek to rely or otherwise setting out the substance of the issues that it is proposed they will address.”
Cite this article as: Frank Cranmer, "Assisting suicide: leave to appeal granted in R (Conway)" in Law & Religion UK, 19 January 2018,


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *