Former UCD lecturer, Marie Fleming, last week lost a high court battle to overturn the ban on assisted suicide in Ireland.  

Fleming, who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis, took the case to the High Court to challenge the law that prohibits her partner, Tom Curran, from assisting in her death, should she decide to end her life. 

Fleming has suffered from Multiple Sclerosis for 27 years.  She is currently in the final stages of the illness, which confines her to a wheelchair and affects her ability to speak and swallow.

Due to the nature of her illness, which she fears will eventually prevent her from communicating; Fleming would require assistance from her partner or a third party to end her own life.

Speaking to Blathnaid Ni Chofaigh on a special edition of RTE’s Moment of Truth, Curran detailed how he and his partner of 20 years took the case against the state so Fleming could avoid what she believed could be a “horrible” death, and instead end her own life at the couple’s County Wicklow home.

As the law currently stands, Curran could face a prison sentence of up to 14 years should he be found guilty of assisting in his partner’s death.

Fleming challenged the ban on assisted suicide in Ireland in the High Court on the grounds that it is unconstitutional and a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), as it denies her right to dignity, privacy and autonomy.  She also claimed that the ban is discriminatory, as it criminalises assisted suicide, but allows an able-bodied person to choose to end his or her own life.

The High Court judgement did not, however, rule in favour of Ms. Fleming’s case. While High Court President Justice Nicholas Kearns deemed Fleming a “humbling and inspiring” person, the court ruled against lifting the ban on assisted suicide, on the grounds that it could not do so without putting other vulnerable persons, including the elderly, the disabled, the poor and the unwanted, at risk.

The State also highlighted that whilst suicide was decriminalised in 1993, no Irish citizen possesses a constitutional right to take his or her own life.

Ms. Fleming and Mr. Curran announced on Wednesday last that they intend to appeal the High Court judgement to the Supreme Court.