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The Exit Internationalist

September 10, 2020

Irish Campaigners support allowing terminally ill people to end their own lives

Irish Examiner, Daniel McConnell

Leading cancer campaigner Vicky Phelan and Tom Curran, husband of Marie Fleming, will publicly voice their support for a new bill aimed at allowing terminally ill people end their own lives.

Ms Phelan, Mr Curran, and Gail O’Rorke — who was acquitted of attempting to help her friend Bernadette Ford travel to a euthanasia clinic in Switzerland, and of assisting her eventual suicide — are to speak at a press event next Monday in support of the Dying with dignity bill.

Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny, who is sponsoring the bill is hopeful the presence of such high-profile personalities will force the government into allowing a free vote if it is not prepared to back it.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Mr Kenny said the purpose of the Bill is to make provision for the assistance in achieving a dignified and peaceful end of life in a qualifying person and to provide for other related matters.

“The rationale behind the Bill is to give to a person the legal and medical right of the authorisation of assisted dying where that person is suffering from a terminal illness.

“If this Bill is enacted this would give a medical practitioner the legal right to provide assistance to a qualifying person to end his or her own life in accordance with the terms set out in the Act,” he said.

Marie Fleming took a High Court challenge in 2013 to change the law around assisted dying. Marie’s case was rejected by the Supreme Court in April 2013.

However, the presiding judge did note there was nothing to stop the Oireachtas from legislating to allow for assisted suicide once it was satisfied that appropriate safeguards could be put in place.

In 2015, Ms O’Rorke was found not guilty of attempting to help her friend Bernadette Forde to travel to a euthanasia clinic in Switzerland in 2011, and of assisting Ms Forde’s suicide in Dublin later that year.

Ms Phelan said she is supporting the bill because she believes people should have the choice to die in their own country.

“I wouldn’t be able to get on a plane and go to Switzerland or Oregon because I wouldn’t get there because I’m known at this stage,” she said of travelling outside of Ireland for the procedure which is illegal here,” she said.

“I wouldn’t like to do that because I want to die in my own country,” she said. “I don’t want to have to go somewhere else and have my poor family travel over there and then travel back with a coffin,” she said.

“People should have a choice,” she said, referring to having the right to die.

“I know from having witnessed and heard from other people who have gone before me with this disease that it’s not a nice way to go and I have young children and that’s the thing,” she said.