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Assisted suicide could be introduced in Ireland

Tom Curran said TDs are ‘willing to break ranks’ to support his right-to-die law.

Marie and Tom
Marie and Tom
Image: Tom Curran

TOM CURRAN HAS been working on a right-to-die bill since his partner Marie Fleming lost her Supreme Court appeal in April 2013 to establish a constitutional right to die.

Fleming- who had multiple sclerosis (MS) – died eight months later, at the age of 59.

Curran has been working with a team of four barristers to draft the legislation, which is now complete.

He said the bill would provide “the availability of assisted dying for the terminally ill who make that decision for themselves”, adding: “It’s not euthanasia, it’s assisted suicide.”

Curran told TheJournal.ie the reason the document has taken so long to draft is because the team wanted to “ensure that people will not have the opportunity to take advantage of the vulnerable”.

The legislation is based on the Oregon Death with Dignity Act.

Last week Gail O’Rorke was found not guilty of attempting to assist her friend and MS-sufferer Bernadette Forde to travel to Dignitas in Zurich.

Curran said he hoped the case will bring home the “need to legislate”.

‘A peaceful death’

Curran said the bill will include a vetting process, adding that “for want of a better word” people will fill out an application form for assisted dying.

He said “a group of conditions” would have to be met, but he didn’t want to go into detail ahead of a Dáil debate on the issue.

Curran told us the process would identify “anything that is not a straightforward case of a rational person with a terminal illness deciding that they want to end their suffering earlier than their illness would”.

He said the medical industry currently has “a monopoly on the means for a peaceful death”.

“If an able-bodied person decides to kill themselves they are perfectly entitled to do so – I’m talking under the law, not from a moral perspective,” he stated, adding that their death is unlikely to be “peaceful” without help.

He said he’s expecting a constitutional challenge to the bill.

Marie Fleming court case Marie Fleming at the High Court in Dublin in January 2013 with her partner Tom Curran (left), family friend Brian Gainey and daughter Corrina Moore. Source: Niall Carson/PA Images

Curran is due to meet with TD John Halligan this week. The Waterford independent hopes to introduce the bill to the Dáil within weeks.

“John came to us around the time of the court case to offer his support and friendship.”

Curran said he has received support from several other TDs, such as Stephen Donnelly, as well as Senators.

A lot of our legislators have been very supportive: not the parties, but the individuals have. People in the parties are willing to break ranks.
My feeling is … I don’t know how to say this without offending people: I really just don’t think they have the balls to tackle something like this. We prefer to export and operate on the basis of ‘If we can’t see it, it’s not happening’.

Curran said Ireland has been exporting its problem to Switzerland, where assisted dying is legal. However, he said “that door has been firmly closed” by the O’Rorke case.

He said he and Fleming made a plan about how she would die six years before she passed away.

“She just needed to know that she could have decided for herself at any stage,” Curran noted, saying it was “a weight off her shoulders that allowed her to get on with living”.

He said that only a small percentage of those who apply for assisted dying in Oregon go through with it, noting that people get relief from having the option.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Corrina Moore, Marie Fleming’s daughter, said her mother was “always a fighter”.

She said her mother would have asked her or her father to assist her in her death had she knew that they would not be prosecuted.

“Absolutely, that is why she took the case. And we would have helped her, absolutely. When your mother asks you to help and you can see the amount it is taking out of her… without a doubt.”

She said she did not see the will from many politicians to change the situation. She said there are a handful of independents such as Stephen Donnelly and John Halligan, but not in the main political parties.

“I would love to see the Oireachtas have the backbone to listen to the people.”

Originally published: 6.01am

Background:

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

Supreme Court: Ireland has a right to life, not a right to die

Gail O’Rorke found not guilty of assisting the suicide of her friend

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About the author:

Órla Ryan

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