Multiple Sclerosis sufferer Marie Fleming has been denied the right to take her life with an assisted suicide by Ireland’s High Court.
The 58-year-old has failed with her legal battle against the country’s blanket ban on assisted suicide.
The former college lecturer was told by Justice Nicholas Kearns on Thursday morning that the specially convened three judge Divisional Court had unanimously rejected her bid to end her life with the assistance of another.
The Irish Independent reports that Justice Kearns described Fleming as a ‘humbling and inspiring’ person.
Announcing the decision, he said: “She is one of the most remarkable witnesses to come before the courts. Her experience is harrowing.”
He also explained that the Divisional Court had rejected Fleming’s claims under the Constitution and the European Convention of Human Rights.
The Irish Independent reports that the court said that it was ‘impossible’ to liberalise the law on assisted suicide and at the same time protect vulnerable persons such as the aged, the disabled, the poor, the unwanted and others including those who were financially compromised who may be vulnerable to assisted suicide.
The court had heard that Fleming is in the final stages of the illness and would require help to end her own life.
Fleming is wheelchair-bound and needs 24/7 care. Partner Tom Curran provides that care, and the 59-year-old woman is trying to win the choice of end her life with his help should her suffering become too much.
As the Irish suicide law stands – suicide was decriminalized in the country in 1993 – if Curran helps Fleming to end her life then he could be sentenced to 14 years in prison.
"We are taking this case on both our behalfs," Curran told the Irish Independent. "Marie may never exercise the decision (to end her life), but I am willing to go to prison if needs be.
“It would give Marie such comfort, such peace of mind, to know that I will be there for her and that she will not have to suffer needlessly. It would give her comfort to know I could help without the threat of prison. Peace of mind, that is what this case is about."
Suicide was decriminalised under Irish law in 1993 but assisted suicide remains a criminal offence attracting a prison term of up to 14 years.
Mother of two Fleming had claimed that the strict ban on assisted suicide was unconstitutional and in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.
She claimed that the ban violates her rights to dignity, privacy and autonomy.
Now a grandmother, Fleming also claimed that the legal ban is discriminatory as it ‘criminalises assisted suicide but allows an able bodied person to take their own life’.
She had asked Ireland’s Director of Public Prosecutions to issue guidelines outlining what factors to be taken into account in deciding whether to prosecute assisted suicide but DPP Claire Loftus refused to do so.
Loftus had stated: “My office could be exposed to a charge of “aiding and abetting in the commission of a crime.”
The report says that the DPP said she could not provide a ‘roadmap1 to evade prosecution.
Lawyers for the Irish State had opposed the action and said that although suicide had been decriminalised, there was no constitutional right to commit suicide.
The report adds that the State said it was entitled, as a matter of social policy, to maintain the ban.
Fleming is expected to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.