Tuesday 17 October 2017

Taoiseach 'wants to visit' sufferer

Marie Fleming: received letter demanding proof of condition
Marie Fleming: received letter demanding proof of condition
Tom Curran, partner of Marie Fleming who is in the final stages of MS, and Marie's daughter Corrinna Moore arriving at Leinster House
Marie Fleming

Taoiseach Enda Kenny wants to meet terminally ill multiple sclerosis sufferer Marie Fleming in her home, her partner has revealed.

The right-to-die campaigner had called on the Taoiseach and other legislators to see how she lives in a bid to get them to pass laws on assisted suicide.

Her partner Tom Curran held a "good frank conversation" with Mr Kenny for an hour after he previously rejected the possibility of legislation on the controversial issue.

"She (Marie) wants people to understand her point of view and the way she lives and then make the decision themselves," said Mr Curran outside Government Buildings.

"So it's from that point of view that she is saying 'come and live my life' not necessarily come and visit me.

"But he did express a wish to come and see her and he'd be more than welcome."

Ms Fleming, 59, who lost a Supreme Court challenge earlier this year to end her life with assistance, is wheelchair bound and can only move her head.

She lives in constant pain, cannot swallow and suffers choking sessions which she fears will eventually kill her.

Mr Curran - who said his partner has plenty to live for at the moment - faces up to 14 years in jail if convicted of helping her to die.

The meeting with Mr Kenny was arranged before health chiefs were criticised for forcing the couple to prove Ms Fleming's sickness to have a medical card renewed.

Mr Curran said the Taoiseach also felt the incident had been deplorable.

But the carer and former IT worker said he accepted an explanation that the issuing of medial cards was now centralised through a computer system and no longer personally at a local level.

"The human element hasn't been put in to it," said Mr Curran.

"But the thing that infuriated me so much about it was that when media did get hold of it the problem seemed to be resolved.

"I had made several phone calls and all I was getting was numerous letters and the ridiculous situation of being asked to verify Marie's condition.

"Why couldn't they have responded to my phone calls?"

He said the couple - who survive on her disability benefit and his carer's allowance - knew she would eventually get a new card but feared they would not be able to pay for the 30 plus tablets a day Ms Fleming takes when her current card expired at the end of the month.

She was one of thousands of sick people being assessed for eligibility for free health care in a cost-saving crackdown.

Mr Curran said found Mr Kenny "a very understanding man" during their meeting to discuss his views on assisted suicide.

He said they both had differing views, but he understood Mr Kenny's concerns over safeguards.

"Everybody is entitled to their own opinion and he has an opinion," he said.

"He is in a position where he has to legislate and where he has to think about everybody else and the whole issue that comes up every time is thing of safeguards."

Mr Curran has put together a working group to examine possible legislation and safeguards in other countries where assisted suicide is permitted.

"No safeguard going to be completely fool proof," he added.

"There are going people who will abuse, there's no doubt about that.

"But for the small number of people that that will happen I don't think people like Marie and other people, for instance we had eight people travel to Dignitas to be helped to die from Ireland, so it's obviously something people do want.

"Everybody we speak to is in favour."

Press Association

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