Marie Fleming loses Supreme Court appeal challenging ban on assisted suicide

Monday 29 April 2013 22.55
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Marie Fleming claims the ban on assisted suicide is forcing her to endure a life of pain and misery
Marie Fleming claims the ban on assisted suicide is forcing her to endure a life of pain and misery
Tom Curran, the partner of Marie Fleming, said she is very disappointed by the Supreme Court's rejection of her appeal
Tom Curran, the partner of Marie Fleming, said she is very disappointed by the Supreme Court's rejection of her appeal
Ms Fleming wants her partner to help her end her life without fear of prosecution
Ms Fleming wants her partner to help her end her life without fear of prosecution

A 59-year-old terminally ill woman has lost her Supreme Court challenge to the ban on assisted suicide.

Marie Fleming, who has multiple sclerosis, is physically unable to end her own life and wants her partner to help her die without fear of prosecution.

She had argued the ban on assisted suicide breached her Constitutional rights and discriminated against her as a disabled person.

A seven-judge Supreme Court ruled this morning that there was no Constitutional right to die or to be assisted to do so.

However, it said there was nothing to prevent the introduction of legislation to deal with cases such as that of Ms Fleming.

Describing the case as "tragic", the Supreme Court said it had carefully considered comparative cases from other jurisdictions.

It found it "significant" that a claim to a right to assisted suicide had come before many courts without success.

However, the issue for the Supreme Court was whether there was a right under the Constitution.

The court found that there was no explicit right to commit sucide or to determine the time of one's death in the Constitution.

Any such right had to be found as part of another expressed right or in an unenumerated right.

Ms Fleming had laid the foundation of the case on the express right to life in Article 40.

But the court said that right to life did not import a right to die.

The court also rejected submissions that the criminal law ban on assisted suicide unfairly discriminated against Ms Fleming.

The Supreme Court said nothing in its judgment should be taken as necessarily implying that it would not be open to the State in the event that the Oireachtas were satisfied that measures with appropriate safeguards could be introduced, to legislate to deal with a case such as that of Ms Fleming.

Ms Fleming had also asked the court for a declaration of incompatibility under the European Convention on Human Rights Act.

The Supreme Court said the European Court of Human Rights had already held that no right to die could be derived from the convention.

It was for states to assess the risk of abuse if the general prohibition on assisted suicide was relaxed or if exceptions were to be created.

This complex issue of assisted suicide had been assessed and the legislature in Ireland had legislated in Sec 2(2) of the Criminal Law Suicide Act of 1993.

Meanwhile, Ms Fleming's partner Tom Curran said she is very disappointed by the Supreme Court's rejection of her appeal.

He said it is very difficult to see how a disabled person can be deprived of something that is legally available to someone who is able bodied and how that is not discriminatory under the constitution.

Mr Curran noted that the court had said that while there is no right to assisted suicide in the Constitution, the Constitution would not prevent the Oireachtas from legislating for it if it wishes to do so.

He said the family will study the judgment before deciding whether to appeal to the European courts.

Mr Curran said he will now go back to Wicklow to Marie and that he would help her to die if she asks him to, saying that would be her decision.

He also said Ms Fleming is very ill and recovering slowly from a bad chest infection.

Mr Curran said bringing the case was very difficult emotionally and physically for her.

He thanked the court for how they handled the case and the media who "save for the odd exception" had respected his family's privacy.