Assisted suicide appeal date set
The Supreme Court has provisionally fixed February 19th to hear the appeal by a terminally ill woman against the High Court’s rejection of her landmark challenge to the absolute ban on assisted suicide.
The Chief Justice, Ms Justice Susan Denham, said today the court would make itself available to hear Marie Fleming's appeal which, she was told, was likely to take two to three days. It is expected a seven judge Supreme Court will hear the appeal.
After being told the sides would need 10 days to prepare the legal documents and observing the court itself would also need time to read those documents, the Chief Justice said she would provisionally list it for February 19th.
Ronan Murphy SC, for Ms Fleming, said the matter was urgent given his client’s serious condition. While Ms Fleming’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, was at the moment progressing slowly - making it unlikely that a few weeks would make a great difference - the concern was she could lose the ability to communicate as her condition deteriorated, he said.
Michael Cush SC, for the State, agreed the matter was urgent while Frank Callanan SC, for the Irish Human Rights Commission, said it also wished to make submissions for the appeal.
Ms Fleming (59), who is severely disabled and in the final stages of MS, had sought orders permitting her be lawfully assisted take her own life at a time of her choosing.
Last week, a three judge High Court ruled the absolute ban set out in Section 2.2 of the Criminal Law Suicide Act 1993 does not disproportionately infringe Ms Fleming’s personal rights under the Constitution and is wholly justified in the public interest to protect vulnerable people.
The president of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, sitting with Mr Justice Paul Carney and Mr Justice Gerard Hogan, also ruled the Director of Public Prosecutions has no power to issue guidelines setting out what factors she would consider in deciding whether to prosecute cases of assisted suicide.
The court was "sure" the DPP would adopt a humane and sensitive approach to Ms Fleming’s plight, Mr Justice Kearns said.