Thursday 23 November 2017

'We will live our lives until Marie feels she's had enough'

Dearbhail McDonald and Nicola Anderson

THE partner of a terminally ill mother of two who lost a landmark 'right-to-die' action has indicated he is prepared to help her die.

Tom Curran, who previously vowed that he would risk a 14-year jail term for helping Multiple Sclerosis (MS) sufferer Marie Fleming to die at a time of her choosing, said the couple would live their lives until such time as the former UCD law lecturer "makes up her mind that she has had enough".

Mr Curran, a veteran assisted suicide campaigner who was questioned by British police last year over his visit to an elderly MS sufferer who took a fatal overdose to end her life, was speaking after the Supreme Court unanimously rejected Ms Fleming's challenge against Ireland's strict ban on assisted suicide.

"The court has ruled on Marie's future as far as they're concerned and we will now go back to Wicklow and live our lives until such a time when Marie makes up her mind that she has had enough," said an emotional Mr Curran after the Supreme Court ruling.


"And in that case, the court will have the opportunity to decide on my future."

When pressed by reporters if he would help Ms Fleming to die, the full-time carer and co-ordinator of the Irish branch of assisted suicide advocacy group Exit International, said: "That will only come up when Marie makes a decision herself."

He said his views were "pretty well-known".

Ms Fleming (59) had appealed for the seven-judge court to allow her to die peacefully at home in Arklow, Co Wicklow in the arms of her partner without him facing the threat of being prosecuted and possibly jailed.

Ms Fleming, in the final stages of MS, can only move her head, lives in constant pain and cannot swallow.

She suffers choking sessions which she fears will eventually kill her.

Delivering the ruling, the Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Susan Denham, described the case as "very tragic".

In an extensive judgment, the Supreme Court said that when the Oireachtas decrimi- nalised suicide in 1993 and introduced a new offence criminalising assisted suicide, it had not created a constitutional right to take one's life or determine the time of one's own death.

Significantly, however, the court said that there was nothing in the 54-page ruling that should be taken as necessarily implying that it would not be open to the State, in the event that the Oireachtas were satisfied that measures with appropriate safeguards could be introduced, to legislate to deal with a case such as Ms Fleming's.

Mr Curran, who said they did not necessarily have the "resources, stamina and maybe the interest" to take a case to the European Court of Human Rights, said that "somebody needs to go forward" to bring about legal changes.

In the High Court leg of the action, a three-judge court said that it "felt sure" the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) "in this of all cases, would exercise her discretion in a human and sensitive fashion" in considering whether to prosecute anyone who assisted Ms Fleming's suicide.

The Supreme Court did not consider the role of the DPP.

The DPP said she would be aiding a crime if she granted a request from Ms Fleming to outline what factors would be considered when deciding whether to prosecute for assisted suicide.

Mr Curran was interviewed on a voluntary basis by British police last year following the death of a wheelchair-bound grandmother of five.

Ann Veasey (71) died in August 2011 at her nursing home in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, after she overdosed on pills she had bought online from China.

Mr Curran insists he did not encourage Mrs Veasey to end her life, but provided support to her during his visit.

A file was submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service but it determined there was insufficient evidence to warrant prosecution.

Irish Independent

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