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Assisted suicide jury to deliberate

Published 24/04/2015

Gail O'Rorke leaves Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, where she is on trial in connection with the alleged assisted suicide of MS sufferer Bernadette Forde
Gail O'Rorke leaves Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, where she is on trial in connection with the alleged assisted suicide of MS sufferer Bernadette Forde

The jury in the trial of a taxi driver in connection with the alleged assisted suicide of a MS sufferer will begin its deliberations on Monday.

In the first prosecution of its kind in Ireland, Gail O'Rorke, 43, from Kilclare Gardens in Tallaght, Dublin, is charged with attempting to aid and abet a friend's death by arranging travel to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland between March 10 and April 20 2011.

Bernadette Forde, 51, a former employee with Guinness, died at her home in Morehampton Mews, Donnybrook, Dublin 4, on June 6 2011.

She was unable to travel to Zurich after a travel agent alerted gardai to the plan.

O'Rorke, who was her cleaner before becoming her friend and carer over 10 years, was earlier found not guilty on two charges at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court over the alleged assisted suicide.

Judge Patrick McCartan directed the verdicts.

O'Rorke pleaded not guilty to three counts in connection with the death. She was cleared of aiding and abeting Ms Forde's suicide between April 20 and June 6 in the same year by helping her to procure and administer a toxic substance.

She was also found not guilty of procuring the suicide by making funeral arrangements from June 4 to 6 2011 in advance of Ms Forde's death.

Ms Forde was found dead in a wheelchair in her living room having taken a lethal dose of barbiturates sourced from Mexico.

The judge told the jury to leave the case in the courts over the weekend until he delivers a direction on Monday morning.

"Don't be working on it over the weekend," he said.

In defence submissions to the jury, O'Rorke's barrister, Diarmaid McGuinness, senior counsel, told the court that Ms Forde had been denied her constitutional right to travel to Zurich.

"There is no offence of making travel arrangements for such purpose," the lawyer said.

"Bernadette Forde's great tragedy, her third great tragedy, you might think it's nothing to do with anything in this case, maybe you do, but she could not exercise her right to travel and we know what happened."

Ms Forde was diagnosed with primary progressive MS in 2001 and had to give up her job in the human resources department in Guinness.

In 2008 she was confined to a wheelchair after a car accident in a car park after her leg seized on the accelerator slamming the vehicle into a wall.

She spent four months in hospital after that, had multiple liver surgery and both knees were left shattered.

The court heard O'Rorke went from being a cleaner to becoming her friend and carer.

Mr McGuinness said she washed Ms Forde's feet and body, despite the indignity, took her out in her wheelchair and responded to calls day and night.

Ms Forde received no at-home state healthcare other than a nurse visiting her six times during her illness.

The court also heard O'Rorke, who received 30% of Ms Forde's estate in a will, was in a hotel in Kilkenny on the night of her death.

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