Noel Conway dead at 71: Dignity in Dying campaigner who lived with Motor Neurone Disease dies

A TERMINALLY-ill grandad with motor neurone disease who fought for the right to end his own life has died aged 71.

Noel Conway, 71, battled at the High Court for assisted dying- saying he felt "entombed" by his illness.

The retired lecturer was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in November 2014 but was too ill to travel to Switzerland to end his life legally.

Dignity in Dying today confirmed Noel has died at his home in Shropshire on Wednesday after making the decision to remove his ventilator to "hasten his death".

His wife Carol Conway said: "Noel died peacefully on June 9, 2021. The hospice team, ventilation nurses and all involved were so supportive of Noel, myself and our children.

"They ensured Noel had a painless and dignified death, demonstrating empathy and concern for us all. 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.

"Ultimately, Noel wanted the choice of an assisted death, and I hope his campaigning will bring this option closer to becoming a reality for other terminally ill people in this country."

Assisted suicide – the law

Both euthanasia and assisted suicide are illegal in the UK.

Euthanasia, sometimes known as mercy killing, is the practice of intentionally ending someone's life to relieve their pain and suffering, while assisted suicide involves the person wishing to die taking an active role in ending their own life.

Euthanasia carries a maximum penalty of life in jail, and assisted suicide 14 years.

The only exception is "passive euthanasia", which is where treatment that might extend someone's life is withdrawn – such as a life machine being turned off.

The only alternatives for terminally ill patients in the UK are hospice care or refusing treatment, which mentally capable patients have the right to do.

Patients can give an "advance decision" to refuse treatment or opt for terminal sedation, which means they will be kept unconscious as death approaches.

As a result, some terminally ill people decide to travel abroad to die to clinics such as Dignitas in Switzerland.

Noel, supported by his family, took a landmark legal battle to the High Court in London to fight "for choice at the end of life".

But top judges ruled in 2017 he did not have the right to die at the time of his choosing.

He appealed the next year and brought a judicial review but was unsuccessful.

Noel said at the time: "I know this decline will continue until my inevitable death.

"This I have sadly come to terms with, but what I cannot accept is that the law in my home country denies me the right to die on my own terms."

Before his illness Noel, who is married with a son, daughter, stepson and grandchild, enjoyed hiking, cycling and travelling.

But he was left wheelchair-bound after being diagnosed with the degenerative disease in 2014.

His legal fight was the first in the UK since stroke sufferer Tony Nicklinson's campaign for the right to die.


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