MS sufferer in right-to-die bid
A terminally-ill woman has pleaded with judges in Ireland to spare her a horrible death and let her be helped to die lawfully with dignity, surrounded by her family.
Marie Fleming, who has multiple sclerosis (MS), is fighting a landmark court case asking for the right to end her life with assistance.
The former university lecturer told the specially-convened three-judge High Court in Dublin that it was important she could be heard before her voice deteriorates.
"I want to go peacefully in my own home with the people I love around me," Ms Fleming said.
She revealed that consultant neurologist Professor Niall Tubridy told her a few months ago she had reached the terminal stage of MS.
"He didn't know how long I had and what would happen, but told me that I more than likely could choke to death, where my swallow would stop and then the saliva would dribble out of my mouth or choke me to death," the 58-year-old said from her wheelchair. "It's not the MS that kills you but the symptoms of MS."
Ms Fleming, who lives with her partner Tom Curran in Arklow, Co Wicklow, was diagnosed with MS in 1986. She takes 22 tablets a day, is in constant pain, cannot walk or use limbs, has no bladder control, has seven different carers for personal care, and her speech and swallow are both significantly affected. She frequently chokes, the court heard.
The mother-of-two is challenging section 2.2 of the Criminal Law Suicide Act which "renders it an offence to aide, abet, counsel or procure the suicide of another". The crime carries a maximum of 14 years in prison.
Her barrister, Senior Counsel Brian Murray, said Ms Fleming is seeking a declaration that the 1993 Act is invalid under the Constitution and incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. Alternatively, she wants an order requiring the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to issue guidelines setting out what factors are taken into account in deciding whether to prosecute a person who assists her in ending her life.
Her action is the first of its kind in Ireland. The case, against Ireland and the Attorney General, is due to take several days before the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, Mr Justice Paul Carney and Mr Justice Gerard Hogan.