MS woman seeks early ruling from court on bid to end life
By Tim Healy
Friday November 02 2012
A WOMAN in the final stages of an incurable and debilitating disease has asked the High Court to rule whether she has a constitutional right to an assisted suicide.
Marie Fleming (59), from Co Wicklow, is in the final stages of multiple sclerosis (MS) and past the point where she could end her life by her own hand -- but wants to establish the right to do so with the assistance of someone else, the court heard.
She already has difficulties swallowing and speaking.
A specially convened division of the High Court -- comprising its president Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, Mr Justice Gerard Hogan, and Mr Justice Paul Carney -- will hear her case on December 4.
While suicide is not illegal, it is an offence for a person to be an accomplice to such an act and attracts a jail sentence of up to 14 years.
Ronan Murphy, counsel for Ms Fleming, told Mr Justice Kearns yesterday she was challenging the constitutionality of that law insofar as it interferes with her rights to autonomy and dignity.
Counsel said he was seeking an early date for the hearing of the case because she is in the final stages of MS and past the point of ending her life without assistance.
In her claim, Ms Fleming, a former UCD law lecturer, seeks an order declaring Section 2(2) of the 1993 Criminal Law Suicide Act invalid under the Constitution and incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.
Alternatively, she wants an order from the court requiring the DPP to issue guidelines stating what factors will be taken into account when a decision is being made whether to prosecute a person who assists her in ending her life.
Ms Fleming's action is aimed at sparing her partner and full-time carer, Tom Curran, the threat of imprisonment because he has said he is prepared to help her end her life.
Mr Curran is the co-ordinator of the Irish branch of Exit International, an organisation that campaigns for the legalisation of assisted suicide.
In an interview last September with the Irish Independent, Mr Curran said Ms Fleming, who is wheelchair bound and requires round-the-clock care, "may never exercise the decision (to end her life), but I am willing to go to prison if needs be.
"It would give Marie such comfort, such peace of mind, to know that I will be there for her and that she will not have to suffer needlessly."
Yesterday, lawyers for the Attorney General and the DPP said they had no objection to an early hearing date for the case.
- Tim Healy