Care Not Killing welcomes the decision to reject another legal challenge to the Suicide Act 1961. Mr Conway’s case is substantially the same as that of Tony Nicklinson and Paul Lamb in 2014, except that his condition is terminal.
Those supporting changing the law argue that a blanket ban on assisted suicide and euthanasia is a breach of Mr Conway’s human rights. However the judges in the High Court have yet again emphatically rejected this.
The senior and highly experienced judges concluded that Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998 (Right to respect for private life) is not unlimited, but a qualified right and did not extend to compelling the State and doctors to provide the lethal cocktail of barbiturates for Mr Conway and other terminally ill people to kill themselves. In a free democratic society health, morals and the rights and freedoms of others must be protected and granting Conway his wish would have undermined this.
Dr Peter Saunders, Campaign Director of Care Not Killing, commented:
There have been over ten attempts to legalise assisted suicide through British Parliaments since 2003, all of which have failed. The last in 2015 was defeated by an overwhelming majority of MPs (330 to 118) in the House of Commons amidst real and well founded concerns about public safety.
‘A change in the law is opposed by every major disability rights organisation and doctors’ group, including the BMA, Royal College of GPs and the Association for Palliative Medicine. These groups have looked at this issue on numerous occasion in detail and concluded that there is no safe system of assisted suicide and euthanasia anywhere in the world.
‘Laws in the Netherlands and Belgium that were only meant to apply to mentally competent terminally ill adults, have been extended to include elderly and disabled people, those with mental health problems and even non-mentally competent children. While in Oregon, the model often cited by those wanting to change the law, there are examples of cancer patients being denied lifesaving and life extending drugs, yet offered the lethal cocktail of barbiturates to end their own lives.
‘At the heart of this legal challenge was an attempt to treat the terminally ill and disabled people differently in law by removing important and universal legal protections. The judges understood that the current law protects vulnerable people from being pressured to end their lives, because of real, or imagined fears of being a burden upon relatives, carers or on a state and health care system that is short of resources.
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‘The safest law is the one we currently have, which gives a blanket prohibition on all assisted suicide and euthanasia. This deters exploitation and abuse through the penalties that it holds in reserve, but at the same time gives some discretion to prosecutors and judges to temper justice with mercy in hard cases.
‘We welcome the decision by the High Court to completely reject this attempt to change the law and hope that as a society we can now turn our attention to the important issue of ensuring the highest level of palliative and social care for disabled people, the terminally ill and how we fund that.’
For media inquiries, please contact Alistair Thompson of Media Intelligence Partners Ltd on 07970 162225 or 0203 008 8145.
Care Not Killing is a UK-based alliance bringing together around 50 organisations – human rights and disability rights organisations, health care and palliative care groups, faith-based organisations groups – and thousands of concerned individuals.
We have three key aims:
- to promote more and better palliative care;
- to ensure that existing laws against euthanasia and assisted suicide are not weakened or repealed during the lifetime of the current Parliament;
- to inform public opinion further against any weakening of the law.