Irish Woman Forced To Live Against Her Will, Judge Apologizes

Owen Poindexter
An Irish woman pleaded with a judge to allow her partner to assist her in committing suicide. While the judge sympathized with her wishes, he said that he couldn't design legislation specific enough without opening up a "pandora's box."

Assisted suicide is illegal in Ireland, and remained so after a woman challenged the law. PHOTO: Reuters

An Irish woman, terminally ill, and in a lot of pain with multiple sclerosis, lost her bid for an assisted suicide in Dublin's High Court. The lawful right to die case was the first of its case to be brought in Ireland. Marie Fleming made an impassioned plea to the judge to allow her partner of 18 years to assist in her suicide, an act which could end him up in prison. Judge Nicholas Kearns said Fleming was the most remarkable witness any member of the court had encountered and acknowledged that her life has been "rendered miserable" after being "ravaged by an insidious disease".

"There are no words to express the difficulty we had in arriving at this decision," Kearns said, reading a summary of the 121-page judgment. Despite his sympathies, Kearns concluded that there would be no way to tailor legislation specific enough to allow this assisted suicide without creating the possibility of a precedent that would be ultimately harmful to Irish society:

"The fact remains that if this court were to unravel a thread of this law by even the most limited constitutional adjudication in her favor, it would - or at least might - open a Pandora's box which would be impossible to close."

Interestingly, suicide is legal in Ireland, just not assisted suicide, so if Fleming is able to take her own life, she will be within the bounds of the law (and out of its jurisdiction). Her partner just may not assist her in ending her life.

Three similar cases have been tried recently in Britain, all of them with the same result: that assisted suicide was denied. Only four small countries in Europe allow assisted suicide: Switzerland and the "Benelux" countries: Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.