A ‘right to die’ case has failed in the High Court. Noel Conway v Secretary of State for Justice was one of two high profile cases brought by claimants seeking a legal, assisted death in the UK. Omid v The Ministry of Justice continues.
The Conway case has a strong similarity to the case brought by the late Tony Nicklinson. Conway suffers from motor neurone disease, and in common with Nicklinson has a life expectancy that is measured in months, not years.
Conway, advised by Irwin Mitchell, relied in part on comments made by Lords Neuberger, Mance and Wilson in Nicklinson. They said parliament should consider the issues to provide guidance to the courts.
In the absence of that, Neuberger said, ‘there is a real prospect that a further, and successful, application for a declaration of incompatibility may be made’. Neuberger accepted the possibility that existing legislation breached the HRA. A similar argument is made in Omid.
But Lord Justice Burnett said that Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill, which did not succeed, constituted sufficient parliamentary consideration. ‘Parliament has done precisely what the Supreme Court Suggested,’ Burnett added.
Therefore, the court would not declare the Suicide Act 1961 and the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 are incompatible with the Human Rights Act.
The claimant in Omid has a life expectancy that is measured in years, a scenario not considered in previous cases. The broad evidence supporting his claim, in which he is represented by Bindmans, is different in key regards.