Humanists UK intervenes in Conway assisted dying case

18 July, 2017

Humanist and assisted dying campaigner Noel Conway.

Today, Humanists UK made oral submissions in the assisted dying case brought by its member Noel Conway, who is seeking to change to law that currently prevents terminally ill people –  those with six months or less to live – from being able to chose a medically assisted death. The case is being heard before the High Court from 17- 20 July. Humanists UK also previously made a written intervention to the court.

Noel has motor neurone disease, a terminal degenerative condition which may leave him with only months to live. His case, which is being supported by Dignity in Dying, hopes to establish that the current law is incompatible with the Human Right Act 1998, specifically with regard to Article 8 on the right to respect for private and family life and Article 14 which prohibits discrimination.

Humanists UK was granted permission to intervene in the case in recognition of its long support for attempts to legalise assisted dying across the UK and its particular expertise on this issue. Humanists UK also intends to apply to intervene in a separate assisted dying case in the autumn in support of its member ‘Omid T’, who suffers from multiple systems atrophy. That case will focus on changing the law with regard to those who are incurably suffering.

Humanists UK is being represented in its intervention by Nancy Collins of Hodge Jones & Allen LLP alongside Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC and Graeme Hall, both of Doughty Street Chambers. Today, Ms Gallagher made oral submissions on behalf of Humanists UK focusing on discrimination.

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘It is desperately sad that society denies individuals like Noel Conway the right to end their lives at a time and manner of their choosing, instead forcing them through the indignity to continue suffering long after they have a settled wish to die. We very much hope the present case will succeed in bringing this injustice to an end.’

Solicitor Nancy Collins commented, ‘It is deeply concerning that individuals continue to endure painful and undignified deaths in circumstances where medically qualified professionals can in theory bring about an easeful death but face the risk of criminal sanctions if they do so. There is strong public support for a change in the law and we hope that the court will seize the opportunity to grapple with this complex issue and bring about a change.’


For further comment or information, please contact BHA Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at or on 020 3675 0959.

Read more about Humanists UK’s campaigns work on assisted dying:

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

Humanists UK recently changed its name from the British Humanist Association: