MS Patient in Assisted Death Bid Has Case Rejected; EX-LECTURER: 'I WANT TO GO PEACEFULLY IN MY OWN HOME'

Article excerpt

Byline: RACHAEL MISSTEAR West Wales Editor rachael.misstear@walesonline.co.uk

A FORMER Swansea University lecturer fought back tears yesterday as judges in Ireland rejected her plea to be allowed to die peacefully at home in the arms of her loving partner.

Marie Fleming, who has multiple sclerosis (MS), is expected to launch an appeal after she lost a landmark court case for someone to assist her suicide when she chooses without facing jail.

Three judges at the High Court in Dublin, led by the president of the High Court Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, unanimously ruled they could not support a third party to bring about the death of another.

But they agreed the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), in this of all cases, would exercise her discretion in a humane and sensitive fashion as to whether to prosecute or not.

Ms Fleming, a former lecturer at Swansea's Department of Adult and Continuing Education, pleaded last month with a specially-convened hearing to let her be helped to die lawfully with dignity, surrounded by her family.

Suicide was decriminalised in the Republic of Ireland in 1993.

However, the ban on assisting another person to commit suicide remains in force and a jail sentence of up to 14 years may be imposed for that offence.

But Ms Fleming fears she will choke or starve to death if she cannot end her life with assistance.

In what was the first legal case of its kind in Ireland, she was fighting for the right to die peacefully in her home in the arms of her loving partner Tom Curran, at a time of her choosing.

Her solicitor Bernadette Peart said: "Obviously Marie is very disappointed and saddened at today's outcome and feels it would be inappropriate at the present time to discuss any specific legal or factual aspects of the case having regard to the likelihood of an appeal."

Diagnosed with MS more than 25 years ago, Ms Fleming is in the final stages of the debilitating disease and believes she may die within months.

"I more than likely could choke to death, where my swallow would stop and then the saliva would dribble out of my mouth or choke me to death," the 59-year-old told the High Court in Dublin last month from her wheelchair.

"It's not the MS that kills you but the symptoms of MS. …