Press Release

Disability rights campaigners to demonstrate with giant puppet display during Conway’s High Court assisted suicide bid

16 July 2017         Issued by: Christian Legal Centre

Two disability rights campaigners will demonstrate during Noel Conway’s High Court bid for legalised assisted suicide on Monday 17 July, conveying the message that this would undermine the dignity of human life and put vulnerable lives at risk.

Mr Conway, who has Motor Neurone Disease (MND), is asking for intervention from the court to allow doctors to assist him and others who are terminally ill to commit suicide.

This is the first High Court challenge to assisted suicide law, since the defeat of Rob Marris’ bill to legalise it in 2015.

The Kenwards, of the Distant Voices campaign group, will demonstrate their opposition to Mr Conway’s legal bid with a giant puppet display outside the High Court, including an enormous judge holding a syringe.

Bid for assisted suicide for terminally ill

Mr Conway, who is being backed in his legal bid by assisted suicide pressure group Dignity in Dying, told the BBC in January this year: “I want to change the law to allow assisted dying so that I can be in control of my own death.”

In March this year, the High Court rejected his legal challenge.

Denying permission, Lord Justice Burnet held that the Supreme Court had looked at the matter in 2014, and decided that it was a matter for Parliament to review.

As such, the court found that there was no case to bring.

Mr Conway is to appeal this decision on 17 July.

Once-paralysed but defends the vulnerable

Nikki Kenward was left paralysed in 1990, at the age of 37, by Guillain-Barre Syndrome, and for several months was only able to wink her right eye. Now, she remains wheelchair-bound and cannot hold a needle or tie her shoe-laces.

Mrs Kenward says that if she had had the choice to die during her five months in hospital, she would have chosen death, and that the hospital staff treated her as “worthless”.

But she says that “her spirit fought to live” and now firmly opposes any liberalisation of the law.

She believes that if euthanasia becomes an option in our society, it will further degrade our attitude towards the dignity of life, leaving many vulnerable to being euthanised against their will – including children and those with mental health conditions.

Legal challenge against Director of Public Prosecutions

This is not the first time that the Kenwards have publicly demonstrated their opposition to assisted suicide.

Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, they previously mounted a legal challenge against the Director of Public Prosecutions’ loosening of its guidelines in 2014, regarding prosecuting healthcare professionals who are complicit in assisted suicide.

The decision meant that healthcare professionals who assist an individual to commit suicide are less likely to be prosecuted.

Nikki and Merv Kenward argued that the decision is “liberalisation by the back door”, and puts vulnerable people at risk from “dodgy doctors”.

The Kenwards lost before the Court of Appeal in January this year.

Liberalised law in other countries ‘must serve as warning’ to UK

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre which is supporting the Kenwards, commented:

“This is a very important case as it once again throws into possibility the introduction of assisted suicide in this nation. 

“We have seen from other countries where assisted suicide and euthanasia have been legalised, that this has loosened vital protections for the most vulnerable in society. In these countries, people are being euthanised even for mental health conditions such as depression. 

“This must serve as a warning to our nation to firmly resist these ongoing attempts to liberalise the law. 

“We are delighted to support the Kenwards as they continue seeking to uphold the dignity and value of all human life.”

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