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Cervical cancer campaigner Vicky Phelan begs TDs for right to ‘go gently’ when she dies

Assisted dying Bill would offer people dignity, says terminally ill mother

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CervicalCheck campaigner Vicky Phelan (Brian Lawless/PA)

CervicalCheck campaigner Vicky Phelan (Brian Lawless/PA)

CervicalCheck campaigner Vicky Phelan (Brian Lawless/PA)

Vicky Phelan has appealed to politicians to allow her and others to die with dignity.

The cervical cancer campaigner, who is terminally ill, backed an assisted dying Bill to be introduced in the Dáil on Tuesday.

Her message to politicians, she said, was: “Allow us to die a peaceful death with dignity.

"Palliative (care) does not always work. I have seen people in recent years with a certain amount of suffering that no pain management can get on top of.

“I don’t want my children to see me like that. All I am asking for is a choice.”

Labour Party leader Alan Kelly said his party supported the Bill, with Solidarity/PBP and Independents also behind it, as campaigners called for a free vote among political parties.

They pointed out recent opinion polls had shown majorities of up to 85pc in favour of an assisted dying law in Ireland.

Tom Curran, partner of the late Marie Farrell who took an unsuccessful right-to-die case in 2013, said a previous Bill which he had written several years ago with the help of four barristers had failed to progress.

He explained that while the High Court said the Oireachtas had the power to legislate, “there was not the interest or the courage from [Leinster House] to do anything about it.”

The previous Bill was introduced by former junior minister for science John Halligan, and Gino Kenny TD said his Bill was virtually identical, containing all necessary safeguards and cooling-off periods to prevent abuse.

Gail O’Rourke, who stood trial and was acquitted of helping her friend Bernadette Forde to die, said there was no “slippery slope” evident in other countries which introduced such legislation.

“This is not mandatory, it is just a choice,” she said. Divorce and abortion had been introduced in Ireland and the legislation was about extending freedom of conscience to citizens, she added.

Mr Kenny said the issue was being put to a referendum in New Zealand on October 17, and while people would object on various grounds, the issue was essentially about empathy and compassion. The issue shouldn’t be conflated with families switching off life-support machines, and his Bill would grant the right to die to over-18s only, unlike in the Netherlands where the legislation allows children to assert their right to die, and on grounds that include depression.

Ms Phelan said she had suffered from depression, had sought help and come through it, and a schedule of illnesses could be specified under the law, if passed. She stressed she did not want her children to be left with memories of her in great suffering and distress as she died.

“I was asked by Gino Kenny if I would support this Bill, and didn't have to be asked twice,” she said. “I believe in it very strongly. I remember watching Marie Fleming’s case, when she couldn't make that choice, and being horrified at what that woman had to endure.”

She herself was “going to die within the next few years”, she said. “I never want my children to see me dying and I want to be able to make that choice when the time comes. I'm talking about the last couple of weeks of my life.

“It's not like I choose to do that now, in case people would think this is something that I would choose when I'm well. Absolutely not. That’s not what this Bill is about.

“This Bill is about giving people who are at the end of their life, and in pain, the choice to go gently - so that they don't have a certain amount of unnecessary suffering.

“We don't do it to animals. I don't see why we should do it to humans.”

She added: “If you don't agree with that, that's fine. You don't have to choose that. But please allow people who want it to make the choice.”

Online Editors