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Irish professor with multiple sclerosis Marie Fleming loses landmark right-to-die case in Irish Supreme Court

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Marie Fleming; partner denied
assisted suicide

A terminally ill woman with multiple sclerosis has lost her landmark case in the Supreme Court challenging Ireland's absolute ban on euthanasia.

Marie Fleming (59) fought the case up to the country's most senior legal tribunal, requesting an assurance that her partner not be prosecuted for helping her end her life.

The case was described by the Chief Justice, Susan Denham, as 'very tragic'.

However the court's answer was that the Irish constitution guarantees an absolute right to life, and that there was no legal recognition for a corresponding right to die.

Her partner, however, said that he was prepared to do whatever was necessary to end Ms Fleming's life in a dramatic statement delivered moments after the justices' verdict.

"The court has ruled on Marie's future as far as they're concerned and we will now go back to Wicklow and live our lives until such a time when Marie makes up her mind that she has had enough," Tom Curran, Marie's partner, said.

"And in that case, the court will have the opportunity to decide on my future."

Ms Fleming is in the final stages of MS and can only move her head, and suffers 'choking sessions' which she fears could eventually kill her.

Although suicide was de-criminalized in Ireland in 1993, legislation still on the Statute Book makes it a criminal offence to assist or abet in another persons's suicide.

Fleming's legal counsel said that the provision was discriminatory against severely disabled people who, in effect, were not able to end their own life without others' assistance, arguing that it did not give them equal rights as able-bodied people.

The case followed from Ms Fleming's four day High Court challenge last January, which she lost when the Court ruled that it could not permit assisted suicide.

Chief Justice Denham said that nothing in the judgement could prevent future legislation legalizing assisted suicide in the Oireachtas, but until such law was enacted, the status quo would remain.

She added that an extensive debate on assisted suicide had already taken place in Ireland, and that the Dáil had framed law accordingly.

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