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'If you can't look after yourself or communicate... then you should have right to die'

THE father of locked-in Irish woman Catherine O'Leary said he feels for the plight of Tony Nicklinson, the English man who is fighting for the right to die.

Mr Nicklinson (56) suffered a catastrophic stroke in June 2005 while on a trip to Greece.

The subsequent illness left him paralysed and trapped inside his body, unable to perform the most simple tasks.

He is now taking his case to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in the UK, hoping to change the law which might leave his wife or daughters open to prosecution for murder if they press ahead to assist him with suicide.

Irish mum-of-one Catherine O'Leary (32) was also paralysed two years ago and developed 'locked-in syndrome' following a series of strokes.

The strokes occurred after Catherine, from Carrigaline, Co Cork, had major surgery to remove a massive brain tumour in February 2008.

The strokes led to hypoxia, a condition which meant that her brain was starved of oxygen and she was left paralysed from the neck down.



INSPIRATION

Patrick O'Leary, Catherine's father, said that he understood where this man was coming from in his desperate bid to end his life.

"I definitely agree with him -- it is his choice," he told the Herald.

"If he had good communication skills it would be different. But it's just terrible. If you don't have communication and you can't look after yourself, I suppose it is the worst."

Catherine has been battling her own difficulties in Cork University Hospital, where she has been for almost two years.

But the young woman is now beginning to be able to communicate with her family through blinking her eyes.

Pat said that a serious illness was so difficult for a patient and their family to cope with.

"It's hard for everyone. It's hard for him, the patient, and the family," he said. "My God, my heart goes out to his family."

The family led a brave campaign to bring Catherine home from where she was being treated in England. She was transferred to London when she failed to secure a rehab bed here.

Her family said that there had been some "slight improvements" in her condition since she returned home from Kingston Hospital in London. And her father said that they are seeing positive signs of improvement.

"She is a great inspiration to everyone," he added.

Her son Brendan (10) is also in good spirits, Pat said.

And a website set up in tribute to the brave mum has been updating concerned friends and supporters that she has now been moved from the four-bed ward in Cork University Hospital, to a private bedroom also in Cork University Hospital.

"It has taken some time, but she is slowly but surely starting to show signs of little improvements," the website outlines.

Catherine had lost the ability to communicate after the strokes led to hypoxia.

At the time, it was not known if she still had locked-in syndrome as the strokes did profound damage.

However, her family said that this had now changed.

"Catherine is now beginning to blink once for yes and twice for no again, which is great for communicating with her, as we now know when she is in pain, etc," her website outlined.



DONATIONS

The young mum's plight came to public attention when she was forced to travel to England for treatment last year after failing to secure a rehab bed here.

Her father gave up work to care for her.

Meanwhile, the family wanted to thank everyone who have sent through generous donations sent through to an account set up in her name.

And they revealed that one an anonymous benefactor kindly donated €50,000.

clairemurphy@herald.ie


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