Monday 22 January 2018

Couple's court battle for the right to die

Marie Fleming and Tom Curran
Marie Fleming and Tom Curran

A COUNTY Wicklow woman who is seeking the right to end her own life and her partner are to bring a landmark case before the High Court next month challenging the constitutionality of the 1993 SuicIde Act.

Marie Fleming from Kilahurler, Arklow, who is in the latter stages of Multiple Sclerosis and has been cared for by her partner Tom Curran for many years and is taking a constitutional challenge on December 4 to allow her to legally end her own life with assistance if required.

While suicide was decriminalised in Ireland in 1983 a person found to have assisted another in taking their life could be open to prosecution and a prison sentence of up to 14 years could be imposed.

Marie wants the 1993 Criminal Law (Suicide) Act declared unconstitutional as she says it discriminates between able-bodied and disabled people.

An able-bodied person can take their own life. However, the woman's lawyers will argue that a physically disabled person is unable to exert this right as they need help from another.

Under the 1993 Act, anybody who aids or procures the suicide of another is guilty of an offence that can lead to imprisonment for a period of up to 14 years. Speaking before the couple's identity was made public Mr. Curran told The Wicklow People that the law as it stands discriminates against persons with a disability.

'We believe that it is unconstitutional that the right to die is not afforded to a disabled person if that person is beyond the point of ending their own life. This takes their right away.'

Ms. Fleming is taking the action after a challenge was upheld in Canada where the laws are very similar to Ireland. ' The outcome we are seeking is for the High Court to tell the Oireachtas to change the law. They would have to justify why it is unconstitutional in Canada (that a person who assists another with suicide could be prosecuted) but not in Ireland,' said Mr. Curran.

Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, Mr Justice Gerard Hogan, and Mr Justice Paul Carney will hear her case on December 4 where Ms. Fleming will seek an order declaring Section 2(2) of the Criminal Law Suicide Act 1993 invalid under the Constitution and incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

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