Your ‘Human Dignity’ Means Doctors Should Be Able To Kill You, UK Lawsuit Claims

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Anders Hagstrom Justice Reporter
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A terminal patient in the U.K. is suing the country for banning assisted suicide, claiming he has a right to die with dignity.

Attorney Richard Gordon represents Noel Conway, 67, a patient with a terminal degenerative brain disease who has sought doctor-assisted suicide and has been given less than a year to live, The Guardian reported Monday. Gordon argues laws prohibiting doctors from assisting or encouraging a patient’s suicide conflict with the rights to autonomy and dignity established in the European Convention of Human Rights.

“I will be quadriplegic,” Conway told the BBC. “I could be virtually catatonic and conceivably be in a locked-in syndrome. That to me would be a living hell. That prospect is one I cannot accept.”

Conway said he wanted to say goodbye to his loved ones while he was still lucid — not in a “zombie-like condition suffering both physically and psychologically.”

Under current law, any doctor who gave Conway a lethal injection would face 14 years in prison.

Conway’s challenge is the first push for “right to die” laws since  2014 when the country’s Supreme Court effectively struck down a challenge, ruling that courts had no authority to change the assisted suicide laws and deferring to Parliament instead.

A subsequent 2015 push for right to die laws in Parliament was unsuccessful.

Several terminal patients have traveled to Switzerland or Belgium where assisted suicide is legal. Conway, however, argues that option forces patients to decide to die far too early, since the terminally ill are often unable to travel when they are finally ready to die.

Debbie Purdy, a patient with multiple sclerosis, won a landmark ruling in 2009 when a court ruled she had a right to know whether her husband would be prosecuted for accompanying her to a Swiss clinic where doctors would assist her suicide.

Despite the favorable ruling, Purdy died under U.K. hospice care in 2014, and advocates for assisted suicide have made no progress since.

The three-judge court is not expected to reach a conclusion on Conway’s case until the fall.

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