A former UCD lecturer, Marie Fleming, is pursuing legal action against the state by challenging the laws around assisted suicide in Ireland. Fleming is taking the action along with her partner, Tom Curran.
The case of Fleming V. Ireland is expected to revitalize the debate amongst members of the public regarding assisted suicide. Fleming, who is in the terminal stages of multiple sclerosis, an inflammatory disease in which the fatty myelin sheaths around the axons of the brain and spinal cord are damaged, is seeking the option to end her own life with the help of her partner. Although the decriminalisation of suicide came about in 1993, any person who aids, abets, counsels or procures the suicide of another person faces arrest and a possible jail sentence of up to fourteen years.
While speaking to the Irish Independent Tom Curran said, “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.”
A case involving assisted suicide was decided on in 1995 in the Supreme Court. The case involved a woman who had been in a near-persistent vegetative state for over twenty years. In that instance the court ruled that the right to die included the right to die a natural death and that by withdrawing the artificial feeding to the woman she could die a natural death. The court also noted that it would not condone any bid to bring about a person’s death through a positive action i.e. assisted suicide.
It is believed that counsel for Ms Fleming will argue that the law, as introduced in 1993, is discriminatory because while it allows an able-bodied person to take their life, a person suffering from disability is prevented from doing so because the person who aids them faces criminal prosecution.
In any event Mr. Curran, who is now the full time carer for Ms. Fleming and who received the Wicklow carer of the year award, will be supportive of Marie’s decision. He said, “Marie may never exercise the decision [to end her life], but I am willing to go to prison if needs be.”