'It broke my heart not to be able to hold Bernadette's hand during her suicide'

Gail O’Rorke wants ‘Right to Die’ laws Picture: Brian Lawless/PA

Kevin Doyle

The only person to ever stand trial for assisted suicide in Ireland has told how she felt an "inner peace" knowing that her friend was able to "die with dignity".

Gail O'Rorke was acquitted of aiding and abetting the suicide of Bernadette Forde (51) by means of helping her make travel arrangements to Zurich last year.

Ms Forde, who suffered from multiple sclerosis, never travelled to the Dignitas centre in Zurich after her plans were scuppered by gardaí - but she did kill herself in 2011 after illegally importing a drug called Nembutal from Mexico.

In a new book, Ms O'Rorke has revealed how her friend was "petrified of leaving it too late" and not being able to end her own life.

While she unwittingly transferred the money to pay for the drug, the Tallaght woman spent the night of her friend's suicide in a Kilkenny hotel in an effort to avoid any legal repercussions.

"One of the most upsetting things for me personally was that I knew I couldn't sit with her when she ended her life.


"Being together at the end had previously been part of her plan," writes Ms O'Rorke in 'Crime or Compassion'.

She added: "It broke my heart that I couldn't be there to hold her hand and comfort her while she faced the most frightening things a person can face: dying.

"Bernadette wanted me far enough away from Dublin that there would be no question about my whereabouts when she carried out her wish."

Ms O'Rorke wants new 'Right to Die' legislation introduced so that others will not face court like her.

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However, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said yesterday: "I think it requires huge consideration.

"I think there may be some cases where families feel incredibly strongly about it and one has to have total sympathy," Ms Fitzgerald said.

She added that Ms O'Rorke's book is likely to "spark further discussion" about the topic.