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Donegal woman loses High Court case on assisted suicide

Marie Fleming

Marie Fleming

Marie Fleming, a native of LIfford, has lost her High Court challenge to the ban on assisted suicide.

The 58-year-old former lecturer, who is in the final stages of multiple sclerosis, took the landmark case to ensure that none of her family would be prosecuted if they were to assist her in ending her life.

When delivering their decision this morning, the three judges of the Divisional Court paid tribute to Ms Fleming.

High Court President Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns said she is a “humbling and inspiring” person and one of the most remarkable witnesses to come before the courts.

Ms Fleming argued, in the landmark action, that the strict ban on assisted suicide is unconstitutional and in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). She said the ban violates her rights to dignity, privacy and autonomy.

She also said the ban discriminates because it allows an able bodied person to take their own life but criminalises assisted suicide

She also asked that the Director of Public Prosecutions issue guidelines as to what factors would be taken into account in deciding whether to prosecute assisted suicide.

The State opposed the action, with DPP Claire Loftus arguing that, if such guidelines were issued, her office could be accused of “aiding and abetting” in the commission of a crime.

Counsel for the State also said that, although suicide has been decriminalised, there is no constitutional right to commit suicide.

The court ruled that the current legislation does not amount to a disproportionate interference with Ms Fleming’s constitutional right to personal autonomy in medical matters and supported the DPP’s views with regard to issuing guidelines.

She fought back tears and held her partner Tom Curran’s hand as the decision was announced.

It is expected that the decision will be appealed to the Supreme Court.

 

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