Terminally ill Briton's bid for assisted death can proceed

LONDON — A terminally ill British man has been granted permission to challenge the country's law on assisted dying, after an earlier decision that rejected his case.

Noel Conway, 68, has motor neuron disease. He applied to the High Court last July, asking for a declaration that Britain's outlawing of suicide is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. The court rejected his bid in October.

But two British judges in an appeal ruled Thursday that Conway's case should proceed.

Conway, a retired college lecturer, said he brought the case "not only for myself but (for) all terminally ill people who believe they should have the right to die."

Conway does not plan to die immediately, but wants the option of an assisted death when he is in his final months.

"Why should I have to endure unbearable suffering and the possibility of a traumatic, drawn-out death when there is an alternative that has been proven to work elsewhere?" he said in a statement.

A previous challenge to Britain's ban on assisted dying was refused in 2014 after the Supreme Court ruled that Parliament should debate the issue before any legal decision.

"Noel's case has confirmed that the courts do have the authority to declare the law incompatible with human rights legislation," said Sarah Wootton, chief executive of Dignity in Dying, which is supporting Conway's case. "This is a significant step forward."

Wooton said the proposed change to the law is based on legislation first adopted by the U.S. state of Oregon, which restricts assisted dying to people with a fatal illness who have about six months to live.

Assisted dying, when doctors provide patients with the means to kill themselves, like a lethal drink, is legal in five other American states, as well as in Switzerland and Germany.

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