No `right to die` for paralyzed woman: Irish court
Dublin: A paralysed Irish woman who wants to die cannot legally commit suicide with her partner`s help, Ireland`s Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday in a case that has moved the nation.
The seven-judge court said nothing in the country`s 1937 constitution could authorise the deliberate taking of a life on humanitarian grounds. It said lawmakers could pass such a law to permit 59-year-old Marie Fleming to die at a time of her choosing, but no such statute existed yet.
Fleming, a former University College Dublin lecturer who is unable to move from the neck down because of advanced multiple sclerosis, testified that her life had been reduced to untreatable agony and she feared choking to death because she couldn`t swallow.
Her lawyers argued that suicide was not a crime in Ireland, therefore a disabled person unable to end his or her own life should receive that help to be equal under the law. They also contended that Fleming`s right to personal autonomy under the European Convention of Human Rights was being violated.
But Chief Justice Susan Denham said EU law permits nations to set their own policies on euthanasia, and the Irish constitution contains "no explicit right to commit suicide or to determine the time of one`s own death."
As Denham read the judgment, Fleming`s partner, Tom Curran, and the couple`s three adult children cried and held hands. Fleming herself could not come to the courthouse because, Curran said, she was battling a chest infection that itself might prove lethal.
Outside the courthouse, Curran said he would help his partner die regardless of criminal penalties if she decided to proceed. After telephoning her to say the verdict was as they both had expected, Curran said the couple was determined to end her life at their home in County Wicklow south of Dublin. If charged and convicted of assisting suicide, Curran would face a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.
"It`s very difficult to understand how a person with a disability can be deprived of something that`s legally available to everybody else. For that not to be discriminatory under the constitution, that`s something we fail to understand. The constitution is there to protect people like Marie and to give them solace that they will be looked after," Curran said.
"We will now go back to Wicklow and live our lives until such time as Marie makes up her mind that she`s had enough. And in that case, the court will have an opportunity to decide on my future," he said.
The family`s lawyers have kept open the possibility of appealing their case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. But Curran said that might prove to be too much of an ordeal for his partner.
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