Should people receive assistance in committing suicide?Pepperells
In the recent case of R (on the application of Conway) v Secretary of State for Justice, Mr. Noel Conway was refused the right to receive assistance to end his life following a diagnosis of Motor Neurone Disease (MND) a number of years ago. Despite his initial application and subsequent appeal being rejected, Mr. Conway set out an interesting argument which may prove essential in Parliament changing their current stance on assisted suicide. When arguing his case, Mr. Conway proposed the following criteria when allowing someone to receive assistance in dying:
- The individual is aged 18 or above;
- The individual has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and given a prognosis of 6 months or less to live;
- Has the mental capacity to understand and decide whether to receive assistance;
- Retains the ability to undertake the final acts required to bring about his death; and
- Has made a voluntary, clear and settled decision
The Court ultimately rejected Mr. Conway’s proposed criteria, partially on the basis that Science has yet to evolve to the point where an individual can be given an accurate prognosis of less than 6 months to live without considering the social and moral implications of their decision.
Until medical evidence can provide a prognosis that meets the requirements of Parliament and the Courts, it is likely that the law will not change, unless Parliament alter their views of the medical profession as a whole. As it stands, the law is currently at a standstill on a topic that divides opinion but ultimately does not allow people to pass with what they perceive as with dignity. This topic will no doubt be continued to be debated considering the importance placed on allowing an individual to pass with dignity, which will eventually lead to a crucial development in the law in the future.