NDY UK Issues Statement on Assisted Suicide Case Brought By Man with ALS

[Editor’s Note: NDY USA was honored many years ago when Jane Campbell asked if she could start NDY UK. Our sister organization has done incredible work. Here they share their reaction to the case of Noel Conway, a man with motor neuron disease, aka ALS.]


While we empathise with Mr Conway in his legal attempt to avoid what he wrongly believes is inevitable suffering at the time of his death we strongly maintain that changing the law to allow physician Assisted Suicide will endanger the lives of the UK’s many ill and disabled people who, with the right amount of appropriate care and support can and do achieve a peaceful passing. More importantly, this type of support allows disabled and ill people to live full and enjoyable lives, with no fear of unnecessary death from coercion, error or human prejudice holding them back.

We also believe that legalising Assisted Suicide will negatively impact on how continuing illness and the lives of disabled people are viewed as a part of contemporary society. We know from our own extensive and varied experiences and research that the medical knowledge and facilities already exist to ensure a peaceful death for the majority of people who die as a result of illness and we campaign for those to become commonplace in all palliative care situations. We have seen no evidence to support the claim that the only way to ensure a so-called ‘good death’ is to utilise Assisted Suicide and instead choose to campaign for better end-of-life care through person centred palliative and medical support. While we acknowledge that mistakes are made during end-of-life we do not believe that potentially compounding those errors by adding serious risk to the rights and funding of those who choose to live is the best way forward. Coupled with the fact that medical professionals often make errors when giving a prognosis we believe that rather than ending suffering, the legalisation of physician Assisted Suicide will add to it.

We also passionately challenge the notion of ‘dignity’ as used by Mr Conway and his supporters at Dignity in Dying. As disabled people and their allies, many who rely on daily practical, physical and medical assistance to survive we suggest instead that dignity is simply a perception in the eye of the beholder and is therefore as changeable and unique as each individual person. It is not illness and disability that effect a person’s perceived ‘dignity’ but the way that society values or devalues their existence as opposed to those with no impairment. It is not a real state. It is also too often wrongly associated with a loss of physical ability. As long as disability, continuing & terminal illness alone are considered enough reason to want to die then we are certain that there will be no equality to protect us in death.

Instead we will continue to campaign for truly equal rights for all ill and disabled people so that living with impairment is no longer perceived as ‘undignified’ and death by illness is not uniquely viewed as a ‘bad death’. We support people everywhere who continue to fight for access to appropriate care and support in life as well as effective and appropriate palliative care and support in death.

21 February, 2016

Juliet Marlow
Not Dead Yet UK

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