Archive for Court Case

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.

‘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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