The Supreme Court has received an application for permission to appeal in a case that raises the issue as to whether section 1(2) of the Suicide Act 1961, which makes assisting suicide a crime, is compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (“the Convention”).

The appellant, Mr Conway, is a 68-year-old man who was diagnosed with a form of motor neurone disease (“MND”) in November 2014. Mr Conway has to use a wheelchair and requires ever increasing levels of assistance with daily life, including breathing, eating and bodily functions.

When Mr Conway has a prognosis of six months or less to live, he wishes to have the option of taking action to end his life peacefully and with dignity, accomplished with the assistance of the medical profession, at a time of his choosing, whilst remaining in control of such final act as may be required to bring about his death.

Mr Conway applied to the High Court for a declaration of incompatibility under section 4 of the Human Rights Act 1998 (“HRA”) on the basis that section 2(1) of the 1961 Act is a disproportionate interference with his right to respect for his private life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human rights. On 5 October 2017, the Divisional Court dismissed Mr Conway’s application, and his appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal on 27 June 2018.

The Supreme Court is aware of the urgency of the matter and an oral hearing took place on Thursday 22 November a panel of three Supreme Court Justices. No decision was made at the hearing – Lady Hale said that it would be made ‘as soon as possible’.

Following the Supreme Court hearing, if permission to appeal is granted, a further hearing date will be set to consider the substantive appeal.

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