A new challenge to the suicide law was announced on 6 January by Dignity in Dying, formerly the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, with a permission hearing held on 21 March. The relevant legal principles had already been considered by the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, and the issue was voted on by MPs in September 2015. On 30 March, Lord Justice Burnett and Mr Justice Jay ruled that 'Parliament has done precisely what the Supreme Court suggested was necessary. Having done so, it remains institutionally inappropriate for a court tomake a declaration of incompatibility... [and] the claim is unarguable'. The applicant, Noel Conway, has said he plans to appeal the decision; a second, separate case* is yet to be judged.

Dr Peter Saunders, Care Not Killing Campaign Director, commented:

'This is not a day for celebration. This was a troubling case that sought to usurp the democratic will of Parliament. Only a year and half ago, MPs looked very carefully at this complex issue and comprehensively rejected changing the law by 330 votes to 118.

'Changing the law is also opposed by every major disability rights organisation and doctors' group, including the BMA, Royal College of GPs and the Association for Palliative Medicine who have looked at this issue in detail and concluded that there is no safe system of assisted suicide and euthanasia anywhere in the world. Laws in Holland and Belgium that were only meant to apply to mentally competent terminally ill adults, have been extended to include the elderly, disabled, those with mental health problems and non mentally competent children. While in Oregon, the model often trumpeted by those wanting to change the law, cancer patients have been denied life saving and life extending drugs, yet have been offered the lethal cocktail of barbiturates to kill themselves.

'The current laws exists to protect those who are sick, elderly, depressed, or disabled from feeling obliged to end their lives. It protects those who have no voice against exploitation and coercion. It acts as a powerful deterrent to would-be abusers and does not need changing.'


*54 year old Omid, who was diagnosed with Multiple System Atrophy (MSA) in 2014, 'seeks a declaration that the Suicide Act 1961 and the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 are incompatible with the Human Rights Act.' The Law Gazette notes 'that the claim [against the Ministry of Justice] will allow evidence to be considered that was inadmissible in the 2014 Nicklinson Supreme Court case for reasons specific to that case.'

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