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Taoiseach rejects plea to allow for assisted suicide

Enda Kenny was asked to ‘show some compassion’ to the family of terminally ill Marie Fleming and consider changes to the law.

Marie Fleming pictured at a High Court hearing in January
Marie Fleming pictured at a High Court hearing in January
Image: Photocall Ireland

TAOISEACH ENDA KENNY has rejected a plea to consider changes to the law that would help the family of a terminally ill woman end her life.

The partner of Marie Fleming and one of her daughters watched proceedings in the Dáil today as Independent TD John Halligan raised the former college lecturer’s plight.

The Supreme Court last month rejected an appeal from the 59-year-old that she should be allowed end her life with the assistance of others. Her partner, Tom Curran, would face a jail term of up to 14 years for helping her do so.

Deputy Halligan told the Taoiseach that it had been noted in the court’s ruling that there was nothing to stop the Oireachtas from legislating to allow for assisted suicide in such cases, once it was satisfied that appropriate safeguards were put in place.

Addressing a silent Dáil chamber, he said Marie Fleming still wanted the right to die at a time of her choosing.

She remains a competent but terminally ill adult who – in the last stages of multiple sclerosis - is severely physically disabled, suffers frequently from severe pain which at times is unbearable, has little mobility, needs help to eat and drink, and needs to be washed and dressed.

He added that she was now also losing her ability to swallow.

Taoiseach – in the light of the statement of the Supreme Court, would you consider introducing measures which would allow rational and terminally ill people to choose to have a dignified death at the time of their choosing, with appropriate safeguards to ensure that they are choosing this rationally and without external pressure?

Waterford Independent TD John Halligan (Image: Screengrab via Oireachtas.ie)

Ending his question, he appealed to the Government to show ‘some compassion to a woman who is critically ill and suffering unbearable pain’.

Replying, Enda Kenny said Marie Fleming’s campaign was an ‘extraordinary case involving an extraordinary woman of impeccable dignity and courage’.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny (Image: Screengrab via Oireachtas.ie)

The Taoiseach said that the Supreme Court ruling, delivered on 29 April, held that the constitution does not contain either a right to commit suicide or to arrange for the end of one’s  life.

The court held further that the prohibition on assisted suicide was neither discriminatory nor was it contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights.

He told the Dáil that while there was nothing in the judgement that should be taken as implying that the court would not be open to the state legislating for assisted suicide, that was not the same as saying the Oireachtas should do so.

Concluding his answer, the Taoiseach said it was ‘not open to him’ to give Deputy Halligan the commitment he sought.

Read: Supreme Court dismisses Marie Fleming’s ‘right to die’ appeal >

Read: British man loses high court battle to end his life >

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