Friday 28 October 2016

Assisted suicide trial: Deceased died from lethal overdose, court hears

Conor Gallagher

Published 21/04/2015 | 14:02

Gail O’Rorke of Kilclare Gardens, Tallaght, is charged in relation to the suicide of Bernadette Forde in 2011. Photo: Courtpix
Gail O’Rorke of Kilclare Gardens, Tallaght, is charged in relation to the suicide of Bernadette Forde in 2011. Photo: Courtpix

The trial of a woman accused of assisting the suicide of her friend has heard that the deceased died from a lethal dose of barbiturates.

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Bernadette Forde (51) took her own life with the drug pentobarbital after it was ordered online from Mexico. The trial heard the drug is used in capital punishment in America and for euthanasia where it is legal.

Ms Forde’s friend and carer Gail O’Rorke is accused at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court of helping her die by suicide by assisting her in obtaining and taking the drug.

O’Rorke (43), a taxi driver of Kilclare Gardens, Tallaght has pleaded not guilty to aiding and abetting the suicide of Ms Forde (51) by helping her to procure and administer a toxic substance between April 20, 2011 and June 6, 2011 at a location in Dublin.

She also denies that she attempted to aid and abet the suicide of Ms Forde by means of attempting to arrange travel to Zurich, Switzerland for such purpose between March 10 and April 20, 2011.

She further denies that she procured the suicide of Ms Forde between June 4, and June 6, 2011 by means of making funeral arrangements for Ms Forde in advance of her death.

Dr Muna Sabah told prosecuting counsel Remy Farrell SC that she was asked to examine the body of Ms Forde to establish a cause of death.

She said that she was informed that several medications were found near the deceased including Sedalphorte which is the commercial name for pentobarbital, a short acting barbiturate.

Dr Sabah explained that the drug slows down the brain and depresses the central nervous system. She said it is not available here or in the UK and is a highly controlled substance in the US. She said it has a very high potential for abuse and very limited medical applications.

She said that a lethal dose of the drug was found in Ms Forde’s system. Pentobarbital is toxic at a concentration of over 40 micrograms per millilitre. The deceased showed a concentration of 53 micrograms per millilitre.

“53 was definitely a lethal concentration,” the doctor commented.

The trial, which is expected to last about two weeks, continues before Judge Patrick McCartan and a jury of six men and six women.

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