Phil Newby refused permission by High Court to challenge ban on assisted dying

19 November, 2019

Phil Newby, who has motor neurone disease, has today been refused permission by the High Court to challenge England and Wales’s prohibitive law on assisted dying. Humanists UK has expressed disappointment at the decision, but hopes it doesn’t affect the separate case of Paul Lamb, who is making his challenge on different grounds. Phil also has one more chance to appeal the decision.

Phil is seeking to change the law to allow adults of sound mind the ability to request an assisted death in circumstances where they suffer from an incurable disease which causes them unbearable suffering.

But explaining their decision, the High Court judges said that despite having sympathy for the situation in which he finds himself, the court were bound to refuse permission because of the Court of Appeal’s judgment in Noel Conway’s similar 2018 case.

Phil has announced his intention to challenge this decision in the Court of Appeal – which would be his final chance to gain permission.

The news comes as Humanists UK has urged its members and supporters to write to their GPs to back assisted dying as the Royal College of General Practitioners is surveying its members on the matter.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented: ‘We are disappointed to hear that Phil Newby has been denied permission at the High Court. The right to choice and control over the manner and timing of your own death should be recognised as a fundamental human right.

‘Nearly 90% of the public now believe that adults of sound mind, who are either incurably suffering or terminally ill, deserve to be treated with respect, dignity, and compassion, and this cannot happen until we change the law. That’s why we are supporting Paul Lamb in his separate legal case to change the UK’s prohibitive assisted dying laws.’


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK’s press manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at or 020 7324 3078.

Read more about Paul Lamb’s case for the right to die.

Find out more about our work on assisted dying.

Humanists UK believes that individuals who are of sound mind but who are terminally ill or incurably suffering should have a right to decide to end their life at a time and in a manner of their choosing. We recognise that any assisted dying law must contain stringent safeguards, but the international evidence from countries where assisted dying is legal shows that safeguards can be effective.

Humanists UK advances free thinking and promotes humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Its 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 its ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, it strives to create a fair and equal society for all.