MS sufferer urges change in law
Legislation can be designed to facilitate a terminally ill woman who is appealing for assisted suicide to Ireland's highest court, it was claimed.
A lawyer for multiple sclerosis (MS) sufferer Marie Fleming argued she was was being severely adversely affected in order to create some benchmark to prevent others breaking the law.
The 59-year-old former academic wants to be allowed die peacefully with dignity at home, when she chooses, in the arms of her long-term partner Tom Curran without him facing the threat of jail.
Brian Murray, senior counsel, told seven judges hearing the appeal in the Supreme Court in Dublin said his client is being denied what she seeks for fear that without an absolute ban on assisted suicide there could be more relaxed practices by doctors.
"It is our position that it is possible to design legislation that facilitates the plaintiff in a way that does not present any risk to the involuntary death of others," he said.
Mr Murray said it may be legitimate government policy to discourage people from choosing death over life, but he argued it was not a proper basis for telling people what decision they can make about their lives. Without proof of actual risk to others there was insufficient justification for impairing the constitutional rights of Ms Fleming, he said.
He maintained there are concerns to avoid circumstances in which persons who are not acting of their own free will, or are not competent, are induced to do something they would otherwise do. But there are a class of persons who should be entitled to give reality to their decision and execute their decision, he argued.
"The fact that other people might break the law and cause involuntarily deaths is not in itself good constitutional justification," Mr Murray said.
Ms Fleming, from Co Wicklow, who can only move her head, lives in constant pain, cannot swallow and suffers choking sessions which she fears will eventually kill her, giving her a humiliating and painful death.
In her case against Ireland, the Attorney General and Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), the mother-of-two claims section 2.2 of the Criminal Law (Suicide) Act, which renders it an offence to aide, abet, counsel or procure the suicide of another, is unconstitutional on grounds that it breaches her personal autonomy rights under the Constitution and European Convention on Human Rights.