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Wednesday 21 February 2018

Government: Suicide decriminalisation does not create a right to die

Marie Fleming
Marie Fleming
Dearbhail McDonald

Dearbhail McDonald

THE Government has told the Supreme Court that the decriminalisation of suicide did not create a constitutional right for citizens to end their own lives.

In its opening submissions in the landmark constitutional challenge against Ireland's ban on assisted suicide by MS sufferer Marie Fleming, the State said that suicide is a serious social problem in Ireland that was an "anomalous crime" before it was decriminalised in 1993.

A full, seven judge court heard that the 1993 law, which has a maximum jail term of 14years for anyone who assists a suicide, did not create a general right for citizens to take their own lives.

"It most certainly did not create a constitutional right," Senior Counsel Michael Cush told the court led by Chief Justice Mrs Justice Susan Denham.

Earlier, the court heard that the Oireachtas could have provided exceptions to the criminal ban on assisted suicide.

This morning the Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC), which is appearing in the landmark appeal as a friend of the court, suggested that a declaratory remedy could be crafted by the Supreme Court to address Ms Fleming's unique circumstances.

The IHRC said that the legislature failed to provide exceptions to the blanket ban on any form of assisted suicide, a ban which Ms Fleming's lawyers say discriminates between able bodied people who can commit suicide and those like her who can not end their lives without help from others.

A full seven judge Supreme Court is hearing the landmark constitutional challenge by Ms Fleming.

Ms Fleming, a former UCD lecturer, is in the final stages of her illness and wants to die at a time of her own choosing to avoid a death that is "painful, humiliating and distressing".

She has argued that the ban on assisted suicide, which attracts a maximum jail term of 14 years, is discriminatory because she is unable to take a course of action to end her own life which is available, as a matter of fact, to an able bodied person. 

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