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Lawyers file new application for assisted dying patient

Multiple system atrophy sufferer seeks declaration that assisted suicide ban breaches his human rights

26 April 2017

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Lawyers for a man with an incurable disease are preparing to file a claim that he should be allowed to die with dignity, Solicitors Journal can reveal.

Former property developer Omid T (pictured) suffers from multiple system atrophy, a neurodegenerative conditions which is life limiting, but his life expectancy is measured in years rather than months. Like several other terminally ill patients in recent years, the 54-year-old is seeking a declaration that the ban on assisted suicide is contrary to his right to life under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Omid’s solicitor, Bindmans partner Saimo Chahal QC (Hon.), said although the government was prepared to regard some aspects of his claim arguable, it wouldn’t go as far as granting permission. A draft application is now being finalised, with a provisional date for a permission hearing next month.

Iranian-born Omid has attempted to kill himself once, and the draft application suggests he has considered traveling to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland. Instead Omid has opted for the judicial review route, raising funds via CrowdJustice. The initial £10,000 target was reached last week and there is now a new stretch target of £20,000 with a deadline of 19 May.

Earlier this month, the Court of Appeal overturned a refusal by the High Court to allow a similar case to proceed. Noel Conway suffers for terminal motor neurone disease and has been diagnosed with a less than six months to live.

Appeal judges said the 67-year-old’s case was different from the 2014 Nicklinson case and that he had an arguable claim. Lord Justice Beatson made the distinction on the basis that Conway’s claim was supported with a wide range of evidence not available in Nicklinson.

In his application, Conway, who has also crowdfunded his case, has submitted a proposed framework for legalising assisted suicide. This would only apply to patients with a life expectancy of six months and they would require approval by the High Court.

By contrast, Omid would like the law relaxed for all those suffering from a terminal illness and his application points to a specific comment by Lord Neuberger in Nicklinson.

For Lord Neuberger, there seemed to be ‘significantly more justification in assisting people to die if they have the prospect of living for many years a life that they regarded as valueless, miserable, and often painful, than if they have only a few months left to live’.

Omid’s lawyers, like Conway’s, will also be relying on the Canadian Supreme Court’s ruling in Carter, where judges found that a similar provision was found to be in breach of the claimant’s constitutional rights.

Jean-Yves Gilg is editor in chief at Solicitors Journal

jean-yves.gilg@solicitorsjournal.co.uk | @jeanyvesgilg

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