By Caroline Browne, Partner
On the 10th January 2013, an Irish woman who is terminally ill with multiple sclerosis lost her battle in the High Court for the right to end her own life. This is the first time an assisted suicide case has been brought before the Irish courts.
Marie Fleming, a former university lecturer who is completely paralysed, sought permission from the High Court to end her own life and to establish the right of her partner to help her die, an act that is illegal and could currently see him jailed. The mother of two adult children told the court how her life had become too painful to bear. The High Court heard how the applicant had planned every detail, including funeral arrangements.
Judge Nicholas Kearns said that Ms Fleming was the most remarkable witness any member of the Court had encountered. However, following a six day hearing, he felt it would be impossible to tailor legislation governing assisted suicide on an individual basis and that any ruling in favour of it would have implications to the public interest in protecting the most vulnerable members of society.
“There are no words to express the difficulty we had in arriving at this decision”, Justice Nicholas Kearns said.
Assisted suicide is only permitted in four European countries: Belgium; Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland and in the US states of Oregon and Washington.