Fleming loses landmark appeal against ban on assisted suicide

A terminally-ill Wicklow woman has lost a landmark case for someone to assist her suicide without being jailed.

Marie Fleming, who has multiple sclerosis (MS), took the legal action against the Irish State to fight for the right to end her life with the help of her partner.

Three judges at the High Court in Dublin, led by the president of the High Court Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, unanimously ruled they could not support a third party to bring about the death of another.

Ms Fleming, a former university lecturer, pleaded last month with a specially-convened hearing to spare her a horrible death and let her be helped to die lawfully with dignity, surrounded by her family.

Ms Fleming’s partner Tom Curran held her hand tightly as the ruling was delivered.

The devoted couple were supported in court by her children, Corrinna and Simon, and family friend Brendan Gainey.

The judges rejected her application to change the constitution, but agreed the director of public prosecutions, in this of all cases, would exercise her discretion whether or not to initiate a prosecution against someone who assists a suicide.

Her legal team are expected to appeal against the decision to the Supreme Court.

Mr Justice Kearns said Ms Fleming, who lives with her partner in Arklow, Co Wicklow, has bravely fought MS since she was first diagnosed with the disease in 1989.

“Her courage in adversity is both humbling and inspiring,” he said.

“She was in many ways the most remarkable witness which any member of this court has ever been privileged to encounter.”

During the six-day hearing, the now-59-year-old gave an emotional testimony and told the judges she wants to die peacefully in her own home with the people she loves, without them being left facing a maximum 14-year sentence.

The mother of two claimed section 2.2 of the Criminal Law Suicide Act, which renders it an offence to aide, abet, counsel or procure the suicide of another, is unconstitutional on grounds that it breaches her personal rights under the Constitution and European Convention on Human Rights.

She also wanted an order requiring the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to issue guidelines setting out what factors are taken into account in deciding to prosecute a person who assists her in ending her life.

Several experts, including palliative care experts, also gave evidence for both sides during the case, which was taken against Ireland and the Attorney General.

Barristers for the State argued there was no right to suicide under the Constitution and the policy outlawing assisted suicide was justified to protect vulnerable people from involuntary death.

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