An Irish woman has been found not guilty of attempting to assist her friend’s suicide in the first court case of its kind in the Irish state.
Gail O’Rorke (43) from Tallaght, Co Dublin, was accused of attempting to aid her wheelchair-bound friend Bernadette Forde (51) in her suicide. Forde, who lived in Donnybrook in Dublin, suffered from multiple sclerosis and had been wheelchair-bound following a car accident in the parking lot of a leading Dublin department store ten years ago.
O’Rorke, who had been working as a cleaner and later a carer, was accused of attempting to book flights to Switzerland between March 10 and April 20, 2011 to travel to the Dignitas clinic, which helps people to end their own lives. The travel agent from Caroline Lynch at Rathgar Travel alerted the authorities that flights had been booked for Forde and her nephew Bernard Forde Monaghan. Forde was then unable to travel to Zurich.
Forde, who formerly worked in HR in Guinness, died in her home on June 6, 2011. She took a toxic substance after leaving a recorded message declaring that she alone was involved in her suicide. At the time O’Rorke was on a hotel break in Kilkenny.
In her recording Forde said, “I knew what I needed to do because I just couldn’t live with this anymore – my life is s**t.
“I just can’t keep going.
“Hiding it from friends has been difficult and it’s just so unfair that I can’t have any contact or chat to anyone – that I have to be totally alone.”
She continued, “I hope that it [the recording] will make my wishes and my intentions clear to anyone who wants to question it afterwards.
“It’s me and totally me, and nobody else.
“It shouldn’t be a question mark because it’s what I wanted - and what else can I do?”
Forde’s nephew, Bernard, also told the court, “She said she didn’t’ want people looking after her.
“She didn’t want men to be bathing her or dressing her.”
The jury, made up of six men and six woman, returned a verdict of not guilty after seven hours of deliberations at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court. It was a majority decision.
O’Rorke burst into tears when the verdict was read out and clasped her hands to her face. Supporters clapped and cheered.
Judge Patrick McCartan said, “You have been found not guilty. You are free to go.”
O’Rorke had been a friend and carer to Forde for ten years. During the trial the court heard how O’Rorke answered Forde’s panicked phone calls day and night. They also heard that O’Rorke drove a taxi in order to be able to afford to care for Forde.
Last week O’Rorke was also found not guilty on two other charges – that she aided and abetted Forde’s suicide by helping her to procure and administer a toxic substance and that she allowed the suicide to go ahead as O’Rorke allegedly made funeral arrangements from June 4 to 6, 2011 in advance of Forde’s death.
During the trial defense lawyer Remy Farrell told the court, “Gail O’Rorke is an exceptionally decent person.
“There can be no doubt that everything she did was informed out of loyalty, out of love, for Ms Forde. I want to be entirely clear that the prosecution do not for a moment suggest otherwise.”