Monday 9 December 2019

High Court ruling due in assisted death case

Terminally-ill Marie Fleming has lost her battle to have someone help her commit suicide
Terminally-ill Marie Fleming has lost her battle to have someone help her commit suicide

A terminally-ill woman will be told later if someone can help her die in Ireland without being jailed.

Marie Fleming, who has multiple sclerosis (MS), has taken a landmark court case against the Irish state to fight for the right to end her life with assistance.

The former university lecturer last month pleaded with the specially-convened three-judge High Court in Dublin to spare her a horrible death and let her be helped to die lawfully with dignity, surrounded by her family.

The judges, led by the president of the High Court Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, will deliver their ruling later.

Ms Fleming, who lives with her partner Tom Curran in Arklow, Co Wicklow, was diagnosed with MS in 1986.

During the six-day hearing the 58-year-old gave an emotional testimony and told the judges she wants to die peacefully in her own home around the people she loves, without them being left facing a maximum 14-year sentence.

The mother of two claimed 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 it breaches her personal rights under the Constitution and European Convention on Human Rights.

She also wants an order requiring the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to issue guidelines setting out what factors are taken into account in deciding to prosecute a person who assists her in ending her life.

Several experts, including palliative care experts, also gave evidence for both sides during the case, which was taken against Ireland and the Attorney General.

Elsewhere barristers for the State argued there was no right to suicide under the Constitution and the policy outlawing assisted suicide was justified to protect vulnerable people from involuntary death. While the absolute ban might be unfair to Ms Fleming, that was not the test the court had to apply, lawyers said.

PA Media

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