MS sufferer reveals suicide regrets
Published 26/02/2013 | 05:32
A terminally ill woman taking a landmark case for assisted suicide regrets not ending her life when she was able to do it herself, Ireland's highest court has been told.
A lawyer for multiple sclerosis (MS) sufferer Marie Fleming said she believes she faces a painful, humiliating and distressing death if she cannot choose to die peacefully at home in the arms of her partner Tom Curran, who would be left facing a threat of jail.
Appealing to the seven-judge Supreme Court in Dublin, senior counsel Brian Murray said the cruel irony was that were Ms Fleming able-bodied and not experiencing the same acute degree of suffering, she would be able to do what she now wants to do.
"She expressed at one stage regret that when she was able-bodied and considered ending her own life that she did not do so," the barrister added.
Ms Fleming is wheelchair-bound, physically helpless, lives in constant pain, cannot swallow and suffers choking sessions which she fears will eventually kill her, the court was told.
Her barrister said she is in the late stages of the terminal and incurable illness, with between months and two years left to live, and may lose the ability to communicate and be "locked-in" while fully sensed. "She faces a death which she believes will be painful, humiliating and distressing," said Mr Murray.
The lawyer revealed the 59-year-old former university lecturer, from Arklow in Co Wicklow, could self-administer gas through a mask or a lethal injection through a cannula put into her arm, which she would activate by shaking her head or blowing.
Ms Fleming's legal team argued that the ban on assisted suicide discriminates as Ms Fleming should have the same right to die by suicide as an able-bodied person.
In her case against Ireland, the Attorney General and Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), the mother-of-two claims section 2.2 of the Criminal Law (Suicide) Act, which renders it an offence to aid, abet, counsel or procure the suicide of another, is unconstitutional on grounds that it breaches her personal autonomy rights under the Constitution and European Convention on Human Rights.
The appeal was fast-tracked through the legal system after three judges at the High Court in Dublin ruled last month that they could not support allowing a third party to bring about the death of another. But they agreed the DPP, in this of all cases, would exercise her discretion in a humane and sensitive fashion as to whether to prosecute or not.