Sunday 23 October 2016

Ireland sleepwalking into legalisation of assisted suicide, opponents warn

Sarah MacDonald and Emma Jane Hade

Published 08/06/2015 | 02:30

Bernadette Forde
Bernadette Forde
Gail O’Rorke, who was acquitted of assisting her friend, MS sufferer Bernadette Forde in taking her own life

There is a danger that Ireland is sleepwalking into legalising assisted suicide, the director of a new Irish organisation opposed to euthanasia and assisted suicide has warned.

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Kevin Fitzpatrick told the inaugural Hope Ireland conference at the RDS that his particular concern is that the elderly and disabled become more vulnerable once such laws are introduced, irrespective of any safeguards put in place.

Mr Fitzpatrick, who has been disabled for 42 years as a result of a spinal cord injury, said the disabled and elderly were in the frontline and research showed they were most likely to die, even though the majority of them were not terminally ill.

"What the law must first do is protect them," he told the Irish Independent. "What we want is the right of every Irish citizen to the best possible care to be respected," he said.

Henk Reitsma, an anti-euthanasia advocate from Holland, said there had been a 14pc increase year on year in the numbers of Dutch cases of euthanasia since it was introduced there. "Where one legalises euthanasia, incremental widening of the law is unavoidable. Effectively, 'being tired of life' qualifies for euthanasia in Holland. Fear of impending pain and loneliness and feeling a burden are motives often cited for euthanasia," he warned.

Meanwhile, Gail O'Rorke, the first person to be tried and acquitted of assisting in a suicide here, has said that she had prepared herself for jail.

The 43-year-old was found not guilty of assisting her friend and multiple sclerosis sufferer Bernadette Forde (51) in taking her own life in 2011.

In an interview with Miriam O'Callaghan on RTÉ, Ms O'Rorke told how her legal team had said that if she had been caught with €100,000 of drugs, they would have been able to give her a better idea of what she was facing.

She also recalled the moment the jurors delivered their verdict. "When I saw them come in, with all their heads looking at the floor, I lost my composure. I was sure they had found me guilty.

"My husband Barry stood up and shielded me from the court until the judge came in," she recalled.

"You think that the foreman of the jury will stand up and read out the verdict, but that's not what happens. A little piece of paper gets passed on and someone else reads it out.

"It was only a few seconds, but that moment seemed to go on for an eternity."

Irish Independent

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