The 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.