Irish Woman With MS Loses Assisted Suicide Case

Marie Fleming

August / September 2013

Marie Fleming, a 59-year-old woman from Co. Wicklow in the late stages of Multiple Sclerosis, lost her case against the Irish Supreme Court to overturn Ireland’s laws on assisted suicide. The court announced in early May that it had unanimously rejected her constitutional challenge against the ban.

Fleming, a former university lecturer and mother of two, has made public her desire to die in her home at a time of her own choosing. With her MS at an adv-anced stage, Fleming is paralyzed from the neck down and is therefore unable to take her own life unassisted. Her grown children and her partner, Tom Curran, have expressed their support of her wishes, but, under Ireland’s current laws, could face up to 14 years in prison if convicted of aiding in her death.

Fleming first took her case to the Irish High Court in January, and, after losing, brought her appeal to Ireland’s Supreme Court in February. Suicide was decriminalized in Ireland in 1993, and Fleming contends that the current law discriminates against severely disabled people; that she should have the same right as any able-bodied citizen to take her own life, even if she needs assistance.

Chief Justice Susan Denham announced the court’s decision, that even though suicide is no longer a criminal act, there is no explicit right to suicide – assisted or otherwise – guaranteed by the Irish constitution. Fleming, who was not well enough to appear in court, was represented by Curran and other family members.

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