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Assisted Suicide case continues at Supreme Court

Author: Admin
Date: 28th February 2013

The court wants to use the case of MS sufferer Marie Fleming to make it harder for others to avail of assisted suicide, a lawyer representing Ms Fleming has argued.

Ms Fleming, a former academic, wants her long term partner Tom Curran to be able to assist her in taking her own life without him facing jail.

She is arguing that the State's ban on assisted suicide is unconstitutional in that it breaches her personal-autonomy rights under the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Last month the High Court ruled that the ban was justified to protect vulnerable others from involuntary death and did not infringe on Ms Fleming's rights.

The High Court held that there was "real risk", even with rigorous safeguards, that it "would be impossible to ensure that the aged, the disabled, the poor, the unwanted, the rejected, the lonely, the impulsive, the financially compromised and emotionally vulnerable would not avail of option in order to avoid a sense of being a burden on their family and society", if the ban was removed.

Brian Murray, representing Ms Fleming, told seven judges hearing her appeal in the Supreme Court that his client was being denied what she seeks for fear that without an absolute ban on assisted suicide there could be more relaxed practices by doctors, The Irish Independent report.

He said: "It is our position that it is possible to design legislation that facilitates the plaintiff in a way that does not present any risk of the involuntary death of others."

Mr Murray said while it may be legitimate government policy to discourage people from choosing death over life, this was not a proper basis for telling people what decision they could make about their lives.

Without proof of actual risk to others, he argued, there was insufficient justification for impairing the constitutional rights of Ms Fleming.

While there were concerns to avoid circumstances in which persons who are not acting of their own free will, or are not competent, are induced to do something they would otherwise do, there is a class of persons who should be entitled to execute their decision, he argued.

"The fact that other people might break the law and cause involuntarily deaths is not in itself good constitutional justification," Mr Murray told the court.

Ms Fleming, from Co Wicklow, is not asking for someone to kill her, but for assistance to be given her in putting a mask to her face or fitting a cannula in her arm, which she would activate by shaking her head or blowing.

The court was told on Tuesday that she had expressed regret at not ending her life when she was able-bodied.

Meanwhile, the Irish Human Rights Commission has told the Supreme Court it believes terminally ill Marie Fleming has a right, “subject to strict conditions”, to be assisted in taking her own life.

Frank Callanan SC, for the commission, argued it was not necessary to conclude firmly there is a constitutional right to commit suicide before the court can decide if Ms Fleming has a general right not to be compelled by the State to live out her remaining days in great pain.

After repeated questions from the judges on whether the commission believes there is a constitutional right to commit suicide, Mr Callanan said he wanted to focus on Ms Fleming’s particular case and did not wish to adopt a policy position for the commission.

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