Opinion Former Article

Omid granted permission to bring forward assisted dying claim

Following an oral hearing in the High Court today, ‘Omid T’ has been granted permission to have his challenge to the illegality of assisted dying proceed to a full hearing. Omid, who has multiple system atrophy (MSA), has been seeking a change in the law so he can bring to an end the incurable suffering he currently experiences. Humanists UK, of which Omid is a member, has been working closely with Omid’s legal team at Bindmans LLP, and today has welcomed the news. A full hearing in his case will now take place after an earlier hearing in the separate case of Noel Conway.

MSA is a disease of the nervous system that leads to gradual loss of movement, coordination, and speech, much akin to Parkinson’s disease, and constant pain. It means that while Omid’s quality of life is seriously degraded, he may have years left to live. As such, through his challenge he is seeking the right for everyone who is of sound mind but is either terminally ill or incurably suffering to gain the ability to have assistance to die at a time and in a manner of their choosing.

Noel Conway, also a Humanists UK activist, has also been seeking the right to die through the courts, and last month separately gained permission to have his case heard. Noel has motor neurone disease and has months left to live. Noel’s claim is backed by Dignity in Dying, and only seeks to legalise assisted dying for those with a terminal illness and six months or fewer left. As a result, if successful, Noel’s case would not affect individuals like Omid, nor Tony Nicklinson or Paul Lamb who brought previous assisted dying claims. This is why Omid’s claim is necessary in addition to Noel’s. Humanists UK has also been supporting its member Paul Lamb in his ongoing assisted dying activism.

Welcoming the outcome, Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘We are delighted that Omid has received permission for his case to proceed. Any law that causes human beings to needlessly suffer in indignity is a cruel one that denies individuals personal choice and autonomy. Omid has a real prospect of overturning such a law, perhaps the most ethically unjust such law in the UK today, and we will be supporting his and Noel Conway’s claims every step of the way.’

Omid’s story

‘I was born in Iran and came to the UK aged 12 in August 1975. I am a British Citizen. I started working at the age of 17 and have worked all my life as a property developer until about 2008, when the first signs of my illness appeared.

‘I have also experienced the joy of being married and having children. I married my wife on 10th August 1990, aged 27 and we have 3 children. We separated on 30th March 2015. I don’t want people to see me suffering and don’t want my children to remember me as I am now. This is my choice, rather than theirs.

‘The first signs of my illness were that my speech became very slurred and when I spoke on my mobile the listener could not understand me. I also began to experience difficulty in walking, writing and with other tasks.

‘In 2014, I was diagnosed with the incurable illness, Multiple System Atrophy (MSA), by consultants at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London. Now I am largely confined to my bed, have to wear a catheter bag and need help with all my personal care. My speech has deteriorated and the muscle weakness continues apace.

‘I tried to end my life by taking an overdose in 2015, but I failed! I don’t have the ability to take my own life anymore and I don’t want to botch it up again anyway.’

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at richy@humanism.org.uk or on 0781 55 89 636. Omid is only giving a very limited number of interviews arranged through Humanists UK and his lawyers. Jane Nicklinson and her daughter Lauren are also available for interview.

Details of the case

Omid is represented by Saimo Chahal QC (Hon) of Bindmans LLP and Paul Bowen QC and Jennifer MacLeod of Brick Court Chambers, who previously represented Tony and Jane Nicklinson and Paul Lamb, and Debbie Purdy before that as well. The BHA intervened in support of the Nicklinsons and Lamb, being the only organisation to do so, and is still working with Paul Lamb in his campaign to change the law.

Omid is currently crowdfunding for his case, seeking £60,000 to cover getting experts from across North America and Europe to give evidence and fund their costs along with legal costs.

A court order prevents the name, address, or schools of Omid’s wife and children, or any personal details about them, including their photographs or images, from being published, as he does not want them to be contacted or disturbed in any way. Omid is referred to as Omid or T and his surname and the address of his home cannot be disclosed, under the terms of the same court order. However, press may use the images and video on his CrowdJustice page.

About Humanists UK

Read more about Humanists UK’s campaigns work on assisted dying: http://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/public-ethical-issues/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.

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