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.
Noel Conway had battled for the right to die in the UK[/caption]
Dignity in Dying today confirmed Noel has died at his home in Shropshire[/caption]
He campaigned to die with dignity at a time he wanted[/caption]
Noel, supported by his family, took a landmark legal battle to the High Court in London[/caption]
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”.
They also released a statement written by Noel which he wanted released upon his death.
The grandad said he would make a “conscious and deliberate effort to end my own life”.
He added: “Over the past two months it has become increasingly evident to me that the balance of fulfilment in life, or if you like, my quality of life, has dipped into the negative.
“My voice has depleted to the extent that many people cannot now tell what I say and my eyesight recently deteriorated… I’m already a paraplegic and I cannot use my hands or fingers but I am aware that my neck muscles are weakening as are my mouth and speech muscles.
“I recognise that the time has come to take the decision now to do something about this.”
Noel's statement in full
“When you read this I will be dead. Not because I have suffered a tragic accident or died suffering from a long-standing or painful disease. No, it will be because I have made a conscious and deliberate effort to end my own life.
“I suffer from MND and was diagnosed over six years ago knowing that at some stage I would reach a point when my muscles would have deteriorated to such an extent that I could not function effectively.
“…Over the past two months it has become increasingly evident to me that the balance of fulfilment in life, or if you like, my quality of life, has dipped into the negative… my voice has depleted to the extent that many people cannot now tell what I say and my eyesight recently deteriorated… I’m already a paraplegic and I cannot use my hands or fingers but I am aware that my neck muscles are weakening as are my mouth and speech muscles. I recognise that the time has come to take the decision now to do something about this…
“Under UK law it is perfectly legitimate to remove a ventilator from someone like me. This is not something I would have chosen but I feel that I have no alternative to ending my life without pain and suffering and without compromising others.
“However, my heart goes out to all those people who are terminally ill with cancers and other horrible diseases which make their lives execrable because they can’t find any release from their terrible suffering.
“I have spent the last several years campaigning to have the law changed. The topic has been aired nationally and is much more prominent now than it ever was.
“I am glad that Parliament is continuing to discuss it and investigate the possibilities of an assisted dying law in line with many other countries over the last few years… It can only be a question of time before assisted dying will be approved in the UK…”
Noel’s wife also released a statement saying he died “peacefully” on Wednesday as she thanked the hospice team and ventilation nurses who “were so supportive of Noel, myself and our children”.
Carol Conway added: “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.”
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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.
He was diagnosed with MND in 2014[/caption]