Adam Wagner instructed in important new challenge to the law criminalising assisted dying
Phil Newby, a 48 year old man with advanced Motor Neurone Disease, has launched a CrowdJustice campaign to help fund a legal challenge to the law criminalising assisted dying. Adam is acting for Mr Newby, instructed by Saimo Chahal QC at Bindmans LLP and led by Paul Bowen QC at Brick Court Chambers.
Phil Newby was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) in 2014. Five years on, he is unable to walk, use his hands or lower arms, but can still talk and, as with many people with similar diseases, his mental capacity is totally unaffected.
Prior to the onset of MND, the dual English and French national played a range of sports and enjoyed a busy family life with his wife and two daughters, and worked as a Director at Green Ventures.
MND has robbed Phil of many of the most enjoyable aspects of life, but he is making the most of the time he has left with his family. Whilst he has come to accept that MND will eventually kill him, he cannot accept the UK’s cruel and outdated suicide laws which will strip him of all autonomy and dignity when that time comes.
Without medical assistance to end his life when his condition becomes unbearable, Phil has very few options. With little control of his arms, he’s unlikely to be able to commit suicide without ‘botching’ it, or potentially incriminating his loved ones if they were deemed to be providing assistance. By seeking a compassionate death in Switzerland whilst he is still in a position to make arrangements and travel, he risks sacrificing several precious months or years with his young family.
The reality for Phil, like many others before him, is that he will slowly lose his ability to breathe, move, swallow, and communicate and will starve, suffocate or choke to death. The level of distress this will cause Phil and his family is hard to imagine – except by those who’ve witnessed their own loved ones suffer this way. They will understand the torment this involves.
Phil is fighting for a change to the law, to allow terminally ill, mentally competent adults in their final months to die in a humane way. This is a move that over 80% of the British public supports, according to consistent polling.
The model proposed, has strict legal safeguards in place to protect the vulnerable. In countries where assisted dying is legal has been no proven case of coercion, nor a ‘slippery slope’ widening of the eligibility criteria.
Phil is bringing his case to lay down the gauntlet, asking our most senior judges to examine the evidence and make a fully informed ruling about assisted dying in the UK.
Financial support from the public is vital to cover legal costs, court fees, expert’s expenses. Phil is raising funds for his legal challenge on the CrowdJustice platform, the link to which can be found here.
Phil is represented by Saimo Chahal QC (Hon), Partner, Bindmans LLP, and counsel Paul Bowen QC of Brick Court Chambers with Jennifer Macleod and Adam Wagner of Doughty Street Chambers.
Phil Newby said:
“I’ve come to accept that MND will eventually kill me, but I’m determined to enjoy life and contribute to my family for as long as I possibly can. When the time comes, I would like compassionate medical help to die in peace at home, with my family. Instead, my wife and girls face watching me starve, choke or suffocate to death, because of our inhumane and outdated laws that criminalise assisted dying.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Other countries have introduced a compassionate and common-sense assisted dying legal framework, with safeguards. I’m bringing this legal case to give our highest courts the opportunity to fully examine the evidence, and make an informed decision on assisted dying.
I can’t do this alone. I’m asking the public to support me by sharing my story and donating to our legal fund through CrowdJustice. Together, we can make a change.”
Saimo Chahal QC (Hon), Solicitor, Bindmans LLP said:
“It is vital that the courts should consider Phil’s case and the legal arguments for and against allowing a law change so as to come to an informed and balanced decision. This has not happened to date and the time is ripe for the issues which Phil raises to be confronted. Expert evidence should be allowed with cross examination of all experts both for and against Phil’s claim so that the arguments can be fully tested in court as much of the debate in this area has focused on unsubstantiated and emotive stories about the harm that a law change would result in, without the evidence to back up these claims.”
Amanda Ward, Chief Executive of Friends at the End said:
“Phil is living with one of the cruellest diseases, MND, but what is most cruel is the outdated and discriminatory laws that prevent him from having a dignified death. Too many people still face a bad death, suffering unbearably at the end of their life. It does not have to be this way. Across the globe people power has persuaded the authorities to act compassionately and allow assisted dying, together we can force this change in the UK.”
Welcoming the announcement, My Death, My Decision's Chair Trevor Moore said:
"Now more than ever, as society has become increasingly adept at extending the length of life, but not its quality, the right to decide the manner and timing of your own death should be seen as a fundamental human right. We welcome Phil Newby's decision to challenge our country's archaic stance on assisted dying, and stand up for those who are of sound mind and either terminally ill or incurably suffering. We don't consider terminal illness alone to be a reliable measure of someone's suffering or quality of life, nor believe that the option of a peaceful, painless, and dignified death should be limited to someone with six-months left to live. We welcome this as yet another step forward in our country's long journey towards a compassionate change in the law."
Jane Nicklinson, wife of Tony Nicklinson (a man with locked-in syndrome who fought for the right to legally end his life, and died in 2012), offered her support:
“I am delighted to know that someone else has taken on the task of challenging this out dated and cruel law. People should not have to suffer as Tony did when there is a perfectly safe way around this. It is a problem that is not going to go away and recent polls have shown that the huge majority of the public are behind a change in the law. When will our lawmakers listen to public opinion? I know Tony would be delighted that the fight goes on and hopefully Phil will be able to complete what he started. Thank you Phil for taking this on.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
For further information, or to arrange an interview with Phil please contact:
Lucy Chapple, Stand Agency (Lucy@standagency.com / 07931 225 226)
For further information, or to arrange an interview with Phil Newby’s legal team please contact:
Saimo Chahal QC (Hon), Bindmans LLP (email@example.com / 020 7014 2055)
Gosia Woods, Bindmans LLP (firstname.lastname@example.org / 020 7014 2094)
To visit Phil Newby’s crowdfunder please click here.