Respect the right to die, and to assisted peaceful dying

Right to Die Ireland has made the following submission to the Irish Constitutional Convention.

Recommendation:

Amend the Constitution to protect and respect equally:

The right of terminally or seriously ill people, who want to live as long as they can, to get the best possible medical resources that are available to enable them to do this. Nobody should be forced to die earlier than they want to, and the law should have strong safeguards to protect this right.

The right of of rational terminally or seriously ill people, who want to die peacefully at a time of their choosing, to be supported in carrying out this wish. Nobody should be forced to endure unnecessary suffering, particularly when it is a question not of whether they will die but of how and when.

The right of disabled people to be assisted by their medical team or by their loved ones to die peacefully at a time of their choosing. Nobody should be subject to discrimination on the basis of their disability, by being forced to endure suffering because they require assistance to do something that an able-bodies person can lawfully do.

Right to Die Ireland

Please see this as a human issue where love and empathy and compassion and justice are frustrated by the law as it now stands.

Every year, many Irish citizens face this ethical dilemma between lawful suffering and unlawful compassion. Please read the enclosed witness statement made by Marie Curran to the High Court. Marie, who is in the final stages of multiple sclerosis, was seeking to be lawfully assisted to have a peaceful death at a time of her choosing without putting her partner Tom Curran at risk of prosecution for helping her.

One big misconception about the right to die is that it is merely about dying. Please read the enclosed tribute to Anne Holliday, who died of lung cancer in 2011. Anne had made preparations to be able to die peacefully and painlessly. Like most people who make such preparations, Anne ended up dying naturally. But, by knowing that she had the option to avoid suffering, she increased her quality of life in the time she had left.

Earlier this year, the Irish Supreme Court ruled that, despite suicide being lawful, there is no Constitutional right either to suicide or to arrange for the termination of one’s own life at a time of one’s choosing, and that the principle of equal treatment does not confer on a disabled person the right to be assisted in taking their own life.

Please recommend amending our Constitution to enable the Oireachtas to pass laws that will protect the right to live, respect the right to die, and legalise assisted peaceful dying for rational terminally or seriously ill people in Ireland.

RTE Radio 1 Late Debate on the right to die

Michael Nugent of Right To Die Ireland, and palliative care doctor Regina McQuillan, debate the right to die and Marie Fleming’s court ruling, on RTE Radio 1 Late Debate hosted by Audrey Carville on Tuesday 30 April 2013.

Supreme Court rejects appeal, but says Oireachtas can legislate

Tom and MarieThe Supreme Court has today upheld the High Court ruling that Marie Fleming does not have a constitutional right to be assisted to die by her partner Tom Curran. See full judgment here.

But the Supreme Court has also said that it is open to the State, through the Oireachtas, to legislate to deal with a case such as Marie’s.

So two things will now happen.

Firstly, and most importantly, Marie and Tom and their family will consider their own personal situation in the light of this disappointing ruling. They will continue to live together as a loving couple and family, and they will continue to cope with Marie’s illness as it progresses.

When or if Marie decides that she no longer wants to live, Tom will fulfill his promise to her to help her in whatever she wants to do. As Tom said to the media outside the Supreme Court today, the Court has ruled, as they see it, on Marie’s future, and at some stage they may also have to rule on his future.

Secondly, Right To Die Ireland will continue to campaign to legalise assisted peaceful dying for Marie and other rational terminally or seriously ill people in Ireland. Marie and Tom will consider whether or not to pursue an appeal to the European Courts. They will have to take into account their personal emotional and financial resources.

But whatever about a European appeal, we will now focus our attention on lobbying politicians to change the law to end the suffering of people such as Marie. No doubt that will take time, but we are optimistic that the change will eventually come, and Marie’s inspiration and courage will have made a vital difference.

Ultimately, this is an issue where the law will have to catch up with reality. The law can not control what terminally ill people will choose to do, because terminally ill people have their own ethical priorities and their own autonomy. But neither Marie and Tom, nor anybody else in their situation, should have to face that pressure.

We support the right of terminally or seriously ill people, who want to live as long as they can, to get the best possible medical resources to enable them to do this. Nobody should be forced to die earlier than they want to, and the law should have safeguards to deal with this concern.

We equally support the right of of rational terminally or seriously ill people, who want to die peacefully at a time of their choosing, to be supported in carrying out this wish. Nobody should be forced to endure unnecessary suffering, particularly when it is a question not of whether they will die but of how and when.

Please join with us in asking your public representatives to protect the right to live, respect the right to die, and legalise assisted peaceful dying for rational terminally or seriously ill people in Ireland.

Tom Curran on Marie Fleming’s court case and the right to die

This is Tom Curran talking about his partner Marie Fleming’s right to die court case, the aims of Right To Die Ireland, and his own involvement in Exit International. Tom was speaking to the HAI in April 2013.

Michael Nugent on end of life care and the right to die

This is Michael Nugent speaking on end of life care and the right to die at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland in April 2013.

Mairin de Burca on the right to life and the right to die

Mairin de BurcaMairin de Burca is a founder member of Right to Die Ireland. She is also a veteran of many feminist and other political campaigns in Ireland. In 1974 she won the equal right of women to sit on juries in Irish courts. In this article Mairin explains why she supports the right to die.

I cannot remember a time when I did not believe in the right of every individual to end their lives when and how they wished. I could not see how it was anyone else’s business to say to a person that they had no right over their own existence.

Life is not something we choose. It was given to us by our parents for various reasons of their own. If it becomes unbearable and there is no way to improve it, then ending it makes sense for some people. If there is a right to life, there must be a right to die at a time of one’s choosing.
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‘I wish to stop living when I choose’ – Marie Fleming

Tom and MarieThe following is Marie Fleming’s witness statement to the Irish High Court, seeking to establish her right to die with peace and dignity. We have deleted details of Marie’s personal background and family that are unrelated to her illness and her legal argument, and we have deleted names of doctors and solicitors where they appear.

You can read here about Marie’s inspirational evidence in the High Court, where she calmly explained that she was at peace with the world, and that she was ready to die with dignity.

In this more complete affidavit sworn before she gave evidence, Marie describes the course of her illness to date, her current condition, the expected course of her disease, and her wishes for ending her life. She concludes:

“I do not wish to end my life immediately. However, I know that there will come a point when I will wish to do so. That time may, for example, be when I can no longer tolerate the pain in which I find myself; when I am wholly dependent on others for basic feeding or hydration so that someone has to put a sponge to my lips to give me water; when I have completely lost bowel or bladder control or both; when (as is possible with my condition) I lose my eyesight. I would in these or similar circumstances, arising from my terminal illness, wish to end my life. However, because of my disability I am unable to end my own life without assistance and, given the inexorably progressive nature of my illness, I will never be able to do so. I will therefore require assistance to end my own life.

I wish to stop living when I choose and I will know when that time is and, at that time, I will request that my life be ended. I know that my partner, Tom, is a person who would be willing to assist me in ending my own life at a time I decide, in order to reflect my wishes and to end my suffering. I want to know that I will be able to end my own life and that any person who might aid or abet me in the exercise of my autonomous free will will not face criminal prosecution were that person to help me to end my life with my consent and in accordance with my express wishes. I want to know that I can die at a time of my choosing in Tom’s arms and with my family around me, without the fear that any person would be subjected to criminal prosecution.”

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How preparing to die increased Anne Holliday’s quality of life

One of the biggest misconceptions about the right to die is that it is merely about dying. Actually, most people who prepare to end their own lives, in case they need to, end up dying naturally. But, by knowing that they have the option to avoid suffering, they are free to increase their quality of life in the time they have left.

My wife Anne Holliday was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in 2009. Anne did not want to die, but nor did she fear death. She was grateful to have had enough notice of her death to be able to do many things that she wanted to do first.

Anne wanted to die peacefully and painlessly rather than have to suffer needlessly before dying. She had decided that, if she had reached that stage, she would have ended her own life and I would have have helped her to do this. Once she had made that decision, her quality of life soared and we were able to fully enjoy the time she had left.

Thankfully, Anne died suddenly but naturally, so we had the benefit of not having to worry about needless suffering at the end, but without her having to actually take the decision to end her life and carry it out.

Anne was committed to the campaign to legalise assisted peaceful dying in Ireland. She had spent most of her life campaigning on peace, justice, community and environmental issues. She saw the right to die as her final campaign, and I am continuing this on in her memory.

Here is my tribute to Anne’s inspirational life.

Michael Nugent

What is Right To Die Ireland?

Right To Die Ireland is a campaign with three aims:

  • Protecting the right to live
  • Respecting the right to die, and
  • Legalising assisted peaceful dying

for rational terminally or seriously ill people in Ireland.

Right To Die Ireland was founded by

  • Tom Curran, whose partner Marie Curran has taken a High Court case and Supreme Court appeal seeking to establish her right to assisted dying as her MS makes her unable to end her own life
  • Michael Nugent, whose wife Anne Holliday died of cancer in 2011 and who had made preparations to end her own life before dying naturally, as most people who make such preparations do
  • Mairin de Burca, writer, social and political activist, and supporter of the right to assisted peaceful dying

If you would like to help the campaign to legalise assisted peaceful dying in Ireland, please let us know.