Noel Conway, who has motor neurone disease, is bringing a judicial review which could result in a change to the law on assisted dying to allow terminally ill adults who meet strict criteria to make their own decisions about ending their lives.
The 67-year-old retired lecturer was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in November 2014.
His condition is incurable and he is not expected to live beyond the next 12 months.
His ability to move, dress, eat and deal with personal care independently has diminished considerably and he is also dependent on a ventilator to breathe overnight.
“If I let nature take its course, I could effectively become entombed in my own body as my ability to move and communicate continues to diminish, or I may die by suffocation or choking.
Mr Conway, a retired social sciences lecturer and adult education teacher, says he fears becoming “entombed” in his body as his muscles gradually weaken and wants a doctor to be able to prescribe a lethal dose when his health deteriorates.
The case will be the first High Court challenge to the existing law since MPs rejected an attempt to introduce assisted dying in 2015.
It will also be the first such case since right-to-die campaigners lost their appeal before the Supreme Court in 2014.
Mr Conway, who is married with a son, daughter, stepson and grandchild, feels that he is prevented from exercising his right to choice and control over his death under the current law and that he is instead forced to suffer against his wishes.
He said: “If I let nature take its course, I could effectively become entombed in my own body as my ability to move and communicate continues to diminish, or I may die by suffocation or choking.
“I could bring about my death by refusing my ventilator, but then there is the unbearable uncertainty of not knowing how long it would take and no guarantee that my distress and pain could be adequately managed.
“I have considered travelling to Dignitas in Switzerland to have an assisted death but this is expensive and requires a lengthy journey which in my current condition I may not be able to make anyway.
“I do not wish to die in a faceless clinic, away from my home and without my loved ones around me.
“Having the option of an assisted death would bring me great comfort in my final months – it would empower me to live my life as I choose and to end it with dignity. I believe it is my fundamental human right – one I am willing to fight in the courts to secure.”
The campaign group Dignity in Dying is supporting the legal bid.
Mr Conway has instructed specialist public law experts at law firm Irwin Mitchell to seek permission for a judicial review on the grounds that the current laws contained in the Suicide Act 1961 are incompatible with his basic rights – to be able to die with dignity.
The law firm has issued proceedings in the High Court and hopes that a full hearing will take place in early 2017.
The case will present evidence on the eligibility criteria and safeguards that could form part of a workable legal framework on assisted dying.
Sarah Wootton, chief executive of Dignity in Dying, said: “Noel’s experience sadly echoes that of hundreds of other terminally ill people in this country.
“Choice and control at the end of life are rights that everyone should be able to exercise and it is a tragic failure of our laws that Noel and others are being denied them.”
Published in the Shropshire Star, UK, 6 January 2017.