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Supreme Court to rule in Marie Fleming case

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Marie Fleming

Marie Fleming

Marie Fleming

The highest court in Ireland will today rule if a terminally-ill woman can end her life with assistance.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) sufferer Marie Fleming took the legal challenge so she can die peacefully at home in the arms of her partner Tom Curran without him being convicted and jailed.

The former university lecturer took her appeal to the seven-judge Supreme Court after losing a legal challenge at the High Court in Dublin.

Mr Curran admitted he is prepared for the worst and revealed his partner will consider taking her case to Europe if defeated again.

"We are not expecting them to overturn the judgement of the High Court," he said.

"We will just have to wait and see, and we will have to look at it from there.

"Europe is an option, it depends on the judgement. If there's something in it that will allow is to go further, we will.

"But I'm preparing us for the worst and I'm assuming it will go against us," added the 65-year-old carer.

Ms Fleming, 59, of Arklow, Co Wicklow, can only move her head, lives in constant pain and cannot swallow.

She suffers choking sessions which she fears will eventually kill her, the court was told during a four-day hearing in February and March.

It is not yet known if she is well enough to attend the hearing, but Mr Curran will be there supported by his partner's children Corrinna and Simon and his son David.

Ms Fleming, who is in the final stages of MS, is not asking for someone to kill her, but wants assistance in putting a mask to her face or fitting a cannula in her arm, which she would activate by shaking her head or blowing in to.

In her case against Ireland, the Attorney General and Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), the mother-of-two claims 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 that it breaches her personal autonomy rights under the Irish Constitution and European Convention on Human Rights.

Her legal team argued the ban is discriminatory and deprives an "entirely innocent" group of severely disabled from suicide, and that she should be given the same right to die by suicide as an able-bodied person.

She wants court orders and declarations that the section of the act is invalid, allowing her to be lawfully assisted in taking her own life at a time of her choice.

However, the State argued that the blanket ban on assisted suicide does not discriminate against Ms Fleming as no-one has a constitutional right to be assisted with their death.

Barristers maintained that the decriminalisation of suicide in Ireland in 1993 did not give people a constitutional right to end their own life and raised concerns that any relaxation of the absolute ban could put vulnerable groups of people at risk.

The Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Susan Denham, said the case had raised "complex and important constitutional issues" when judgment was reserved.

The appeal was fast-tracked through the legal system after three judges at the High Court ruled in January that they could not support allowing a third party to bring about the death of another.

But they agreed the DPP, in this of all cases, would exercise her discretion in a humane and sensitive fashion as to whether to prosecute or not.

Ms Fleming, from Arklow in Co Wicklow, had given heartbreaking evidence to the specially-convened court where she pleaded to be spared a horrible death and let her be helped to die lawfully with dignity, surrounded by her family.

She did not attend the Supreme Court hearing.

The Irish Human Rights Commission is supporting Ms Fleming's case and argued assisted suicide could be introduced with stringent conditions.

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