A 58-year-old woman is due to begin the first court action of its kind in the Republic of Ireland, aimed at allowing her to be assisted to die.
Marie Fleming, a former lecturer at University College Dublin, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1986. She plans to establish her partner Tom Curran’s legal right to help her to die when and if she chooses. Her illness is terminal.
The historic court case will be heard at Dublin’s High Court.
In 1993 suicide was decriminalized in Ireland. However, assisting another person to die still carried a sentence of up to 14 years in prison.
Currently Fleming, the mother of two adult children, is cared for by her partner, Curran, at their home in County Wicklow.
Through the court case she wishes to challenge the constitutionality of the Criminal Law Suicide Act 1993. She claims it discriminates between able-bodied and disabled people.
Curran told the BBC: “Her rights have been taken away, the right to take her own life has been taken away because of her disability and should anyone assist her to do so they face up to 14 years in prison.”
Speaking in court Fleming made her case. She said, “While I can still use my voice to ask you to assist me in having a peaceful, dignified death."
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She explained that she had thought the matter though, talked about it with her partner and family, and had planned every detail down to her funeral where she wanted a wicker coffin, jazz music and her life to be celebrated.
She said in order to have a peaceful death she would at some point need to call on her partner of 18 years, Curran, to help her to do so.
Fleming said that her family supported her decision after “a lot of tears shed and questions asked”. She said they support her in her wish to be permitted to take her own life, with assistance, if and when she chose to do so.
She said, “Tom has promised to help me, only if it's lawful. Otherwise, I will die a horrible death which could take months or even a year…That's not how I want to go, I want to go peacefully in my own home with the people I love around me.”
Fleming told the court she was ready to die. She said, “I am at peace with the world, I have put all my wrongs to right, I have sorted all in my head, I have even arranged my funeral."
She added that being kept in palliative care was not an acceptable option for her. She said, “To be kept in a state of not being able to smell the flowers or see my beautiful garden or just see the changes in the seasons, that's not acceptable for me to miss all that. I would be doing myself an injustice.”
The three judges presiding over the case will be the President of the High Court, Justice Nicholas Kearns, Justice Paul Carney, and Justice Gerard Hogan.
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