independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Heartbroken family to celebrate remarkable life

SHE wanted her funeral to be "a celebration" of her life, with a wicker coffin and jazz music.

Now the heartbroken family of Marie Fleming, the multiple sclerosis sufferer who failed to strike down Ireland's ban on assisted suicide, are planning her funeral service which will take place tomorrow.

The former university lecturer died peacefully, but unexpectedly, in her home in Arklow, Co Wicklow, in the "tender care" of her partner Tom Curran.

Visibly upset and emotional, Mr Curran said she died "in peace". He added: "She died the way she wanted to."

Ms Fleming (59) was physically unable to take her own life because of her illness.

She had wanted Mr Curran to be able to assist in her death without fear of prosecution.

"She was at home. That was her wish," said her partner of almost 20 years.

When the High Court ruled against her, she appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.

But last April her legal battle came to an end when it upheld the original ruling.

Ms Fleming, a former UCD law lecturer, lived with Mr Curran, a former IT consultant, in the rural townland of Killahurler near Arklow.

Mr Curran, an advocate for the Carers Association and a founding member of Right to Die Ireland, faced 14 years in prison if he had helped his partner to die.

He also runs the Irish branch of Exit International, the end-of-life information organisation that campaigns across the world for the legalisation of assisted suicide.

Mr Curran, who was Ms Fleming's full-time carer -- and was named Wicklow Carer of The Year last year -- said his partner was "at peace now".

Ms Fleming was diagnosed with MS in 1986 when she noted a change in her gait and her foot began to drag.

She argued that the ban on assisted suicide breached her constitutional rights and discriminated against her as a disabled person.

She had lost the use of her hands in 2010 and, in the final stages of her condition as she battled in the High Court and Supreme Court, she lost the use of her arms and her legs.

She also lost control of her bladder, had difficulty swallowing liquids and suffered regular choking episodes which left her exhausted, frightened and distressed.

Her sight had also deteriorated and and her main contact with the world was via her hearing and she listened to the radio to keep up with news.

Five years ago she registered with Dignitas, the clinic in Switzerland where terminally ill patients can bring about their own deaths under the supervision of qualified doctors.

But she did not travel after Mr Curran vowed to help her die at a time of her choosing -- even if it meant going to jail.

Ms Fleming is survived by her daughter Corrinna, son Simon and stepson David.

A funeral notice said she was "deeply regretted by her heartbroken family" including brothers Don and Brian; sister Noeleen, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, relatives and friends.

Ms Fleming's remains will lie at her residence from 10am today, with removal on Sunday at 1.15pm to the Church of the Holy Trinity, Castlemacadam, arriving for service at 2pm.

She will be buried afterwards in the adjoining churchyard.

Irish Independent

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