Tuesday 22 October 2019

MS sufferer Marie Fleming fails in 'right to die' court bid

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

MULTIPLE Sclerosis sufferer Marie Fleming has lost her High Court battle challenging Ireland's blanket ban on assisted suicide.

This morning a specially convened three judge Divisional Court rejected the 58-year-old former lecturers bid to end her life with the assistance of another.

The court's unanimous judgment runs to 100 pages.

High Court President Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns described Ms Fleming as a "humbling and inspiring" person and one of the most remarkable witnesses to come before the courts and described her experience as "harrowing".

But the Divisional Court rejected Ms Fleming's claims under the Constitution and the European Convention of Human Rights.

The court said that it was impossible to liberalise the law on assisted suicide and at the same time protect vulnerable persons such as the aged, the disabled, the poor, the unwanted and others including those who were financially compromised who may be vulnerable to assisted suicide.

Ms Fleming is in the final stages of the illness and would require help to end her own life.

Suicide was decriminalised in 1993, but assisted suicide remains a criminal offence attracting a prison term of up to 14 years.

In her landmark action, Ms Fleming claimed that the strict ban on assisted suicide was unconstitutional and in breach of the European

Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) as, she claimed, it violates her rights to dignity, privacy and autonomy.

The grandmother claimed that the ban is discriminatory as it criminalises assisted suicide but allows an able bodied person to take their own life.

Alternatively, she wanted the Director of Public Prosecutions to issue guidelines outlining what factors to be taken into account in deciding whether to prosecute assisted suicide.

The DPP Claire Loftus refused to do so, stating that her office could be exposed to a charge of "aiding and abetting" in the commission of a crime.

The DPP said she could not provide a "roadmap" to evade prosecution.

Lawyers for the State opposed the action during a six day hearing.

The State said that although suicide had been decriminalised, there was no constitutional right to commit suicide.

The State said it was entitled, as a matter of social policy, to maintain the ban.

The ruling is expected to be appealed to the Supreme Court.

Ms Fleming attended the ruling with her partner Tom Curran, her son Simon Fleming and daughter Corrina Moore.

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