'My aunt had made up her mind to end her life and do it her own way'
Published 22/04/2015 | 02:30
The trial of a woman accused of assisting the suicide of her friend has heard that the dead woman's nephew had "no problem" helping her travel to a euthanasia clinic in Switzerland.
Bernard Forde Monaghan told the trial that his aunt, Bernadette Forde (51) - who suffered from a severe form of multiple sclerosis(MS) - wanted to end her life on her own terms. He said nobody could have persuaded her to change her mind.
Mr Forde Monaghan said he was asked by the accused, Gail O'Rorke, to travel with them to the Dignitas clinic in Zurich. He said he presumed he was being asked along to help with heavy lifting, such as assisting wheelchair-bound Ms Forde off the plane.
Mr Forde Monaghan said he had no problem helping, but that he didn't know when it was going to happen. The trial heard that the plan to go to Zurich was later interrupted when the travel agent alerted gardaí.
Ms O'Rorke, who was a friend and carer to the deceased, is accused at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court of helping Ms Forde to complete suicide by assisting her in obtaining and taking a lethal drug after the failed attempt to travel to Dignitas.
Ms O'Rorke (43) - a taxi driver of Kilclare Gardens, Tallaght - has pleaded not guilty to aiding and abetting the suicide of Ms Forde 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 she attempted to aid and abet the suicide of Ms Forde by means of attempting to arrange travel to Zurich 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.
Mr Forde Monaghan told prosecutor Remy Farrell SC that his aunt first brought up Dignitas after the death from cancer of her sister, Marcena Forde, in 2010.
"She wanted to go on her own terms," he said.
He said he found out that gardaí had disrupted the Zurich trip in a phone call from Ms O'Rorke. The witness agreed that Ms Forde didn't give up on the idea of ending her life on her terms and that she said "pills might be the way to go".
Mr Forde Monaghan said his aunt "had made up her mind all right to end her life and do it her own way. I definitely don't think anybody would have influenced her not to".
He agreed with barrister Anne Rowland, defending, that Ms Forde was a very "straight up, determined person" who wanted everything in its right place. He said he saw Ms O'Rorke as a warm, humorous, caring person who was a confidante of Ms Forde and had a laugh with her.
The trial, which is expected to last about two weeks, has also heard - from consultant histopathologist Dr Munah Sabah - that Ms Forde died from a lethal dose of pentobarbital, a quick-acting barbiturate. It is not available here or in the UK and is a highly-controlled substance in the US where it is used in capital punishment.
The dead woman's sister, Catherine Campbell, told the court that when Ms Forde told those close to her about her plan to go to Dignitas everyone tried to dissuade her, including Ms O'Rorke.
She said she heard Ms O'Rorke talk to Ms Forde about different options, such as care homes.
She agreed with Dermott McGuinness SC, defending, who put it to her that: "The truth is you were all conscious of her decision and intention and you tried to deflect her from doing it, Gail included."
Ms Campbell said that Ms O'Rorke had previously written to the Irish Medicines Board, asking them to sanction a new MS drug which had come out in the UK and had been in the news. She said Ms Forde would have been "begging" for this.
The medicine was eventually sanctioned in July last year, the court heard.
Ms Campbell said she was relieved when she heard gardaí had intervened in the Zurich trip, but that she was disappointed for her sister who was very upset.
Another sister, Beatrice Forde Monaghan, who is Bernard's mother, said that Ms Forde never told her about her plans to travel to Zurich and that she found out from Ms Campbell.
Ms Forde Monaghan agreed that she was very religious and wouldn't have agreed with Ms Forde's choice. She added that she was a member of a pro-life group. The witness said she learned of the failed Zurich trip when she saw an article about it in the 'Daily Mail' after returning from pilgrimage in Lough Derg. She also said that she didn't know her son had agreed to accompany Ms Forde on the trip until last Monday.
The trial continues.
Bernadette's family: how they reacted
"She said she didn't want people looking after her the way Marcena was looked after. She didn't want men to be bathing her or dressing her."
- Bernard Forde Monaghan on the reaction of his aunt Bernadette to the death of her sister, Marcena Forde, in 2010.
"I had no problem with it."
- Bernard Forde Monaghan on his agreement to accompany his aunt to Dignitas in Switzerland.
"It was not what I hoped to hear, but Bernadette had her own mind, there was no convincing her."
- Catherine Campbell on being told by her sister Bernadette that she wanted to travel to Dignitas.
"I would disagree with it, but I never voiced it to her. You couldn't really talk to Bernadette like that. She had her own opinions. Being her older sister didn't make any difference."
- Beatrice Forde Monaghan on her sister's decision to go to Dignitas.