TERMINALLY ill Marie Fleming regrets not ending her life at a time when she was able to do so, a court has been told.
A LAWYER for the 59-year-old multiple sclerosis sufferer said she now believes she faces a painful, humiliating and distressing death.
But she wants to choose to die peacefully at home in the arms of her partner, Tom Curran, who would be left facing a threat of jail if he assisted her suicide.
Appealing to the seven-judge Supreme Court in Dublin, senior counsel Brian Murray said a "very limited" number of terminally ill people in severe pain who have the mental competence to decide they want to end their lives – but cannot do so unaided – should be permitted a lawful assisted suicide.
Marie Fleming is among that limited number and is entitled to a "dignified" death.
The consequence of the ban on assisted suicide meant she faced a "painful, humiliating and distressing death".
In the very particular circumstances of Ms Fleming, the absolute ban amounts to an unjustified and disproportionate breach of her personal autonomy rights, he argued.
Ms Fleming is not seeking to have another person kill her, but is rather prepared to take the necessary steps herself.
Because of her physical difficulties, she cannot do so without assistance, he said.
The High Court, in rejecting her case, failed to have regard to just how limited the scope of her claim is, he argued.
The High Court had referred to the risk of a 'Pandora's Box' being opened and apparently decided Ms Fleming's rights should be limited because of an alleged and unquantified risk that changing the law to accommodate her could increase the risk of wrongful deaths and alter attitudes to assisted deaths and doctor-patient relationships.
But how could the State show how people who would not otherwise die would be brought to death if Ms Fleming won this case, he asked.
The possibility of abuse could not mean a right as fundamental as hers could be restricted.
The State is not entitled to say her life must be continued "at all costs" and cannot condemn her to endure what the rest of society would not tolerate.
"The right to life is not absolute. The acknowledgement of the sanctity of life does not dictate an unwavering adherence to the maintenance of life at all costs."
A three-judge High Court ruled last month the absolute ban on assisted suicide in Section 2.2 of the Criminal Law Suicide Act 1993 does not disproportionately infringe Ms Fleming's rights and is wholly justified in the public interest to protect vulnerable people.
The High Court also ruled the DPP cannot issue guidelines setting out what factors she would consider in deciding whether to prosecute cases of assisted suicide.
The appeal centres on arguments that the absolute ban on assisted suicide breaches her personal autonomy rights under the Constitution and European Convention on Human Rights.
The appeal continues.