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'What I am asking is to be given a choice': Vicky Phelan urges politicians to support Dying with Dignity Bill

The Dying with Dignity Bill will be introduced in the Dáil tomorrow.

Cancer campaigner Vicky Phelan asks for politicians to be given a free vote on the Bill.
Cancer campaigner Vicky Phelan asks for politicians to be given a free vote on the Bill.
Image: Christina Finn

CERVICALCHECK CAMPAIGNER Vicky Phelan has appealed to all TDs in the Dáil to support a Bill seeking to allow terminally ill people to end their own lives.

Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny called for support for the Dying with Dignity Bill which will be introduced in the Dáil tomorrow.

Kenny was joined by Phelan outside the gates of Leinster House today, where they asked for a free vote to be given to politicians on the issue. 

Tom Curran – husband of the late Marie Fleming, who took a Supreme Court case seeking to be allowed an assisted suicide – as well as Gail O’Rourke, who was acquitted of helping her friend end her own life, also attended today’s press conference.

“I would ask all of them, all 160 TDs to put their opinions to one side and try to put themselves in my shoes, as a young mother with young children.

“Palliative care does not always work. I have seen a number of people over the past two-and-a-half years who have died in a hospice.

“It is great when it works but there are times when it doesn’t when there is a certain amount of suffering that no amount of pain management can get on top of. I don’t want my children to see me like that,” Phelan said.

“What I am asking is to be given a choice, that is what I am asking from TDs. If they can, to have a free vote, this is an issue of conscience.” 

She is supporting the Bill, as she believes there are lots of safeguards in place and the legislation is only for people with a terminal illness, she said.

Becoming emotional, Curran spoke about his late wife Marie and her fight to have the choice to end her life.

Fleming lost her Supreme Court appeal to establish a constitutional right to die in April 2013. She died eights months later, aged 59.

Curran said he helped draft a previous Bill on the same issue, which was brought forward by TD John Halligan in 2015.

Speaking to reporters, Curran said people should be given the freedom to choose how to end their lives when they are terminally ill.

Some TDs who were in opposition and now in power have been supportive in the past of proposed legislation, he said, as he appealed to them to support the Bill.

“In our compassionate Ireland we still insist that some people, often against their express wishes, have a prolonged and sometimes painful end of life.

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“Even the Supreme Court of Ireland agreed that if it was in their power to grant this right to Marie they would but if this is a right that should have been available to one person then it should be available to every other person who finds themselves in similar circumstances,” he added.

Kenny said a Citizens’ Assembly on the issue would only “kick the can” down the road. He said TDs are elected to pass legislation, stating that party politics should be put aside when discussing this issue. 

Labour’s Alan Kelly said his party would be supporting the Bill. Sinn Féin is meeting later today to decide if it will back the proposed legislation.

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