Law 'protects right to dignified death'
Ms Fleming is challenging the absolute ban on assisted suicide set out in Section 2.2 of the Criminal Law Suicide Act 1993. She also argues the DPP is required to provide guidelines as to what factors are taken into account when deciding whether or not to prosecute in a case of assisted suicide.
The case is being heard by a three judge comprising Mr Justice Kearns, Mr Justice Paul Carney and Mr Justice Gerard Hogan.
Mr Justice Kearns said the court required an affidavit outlining the effects on Ms Fleming if she decided to refuse palliative treatment at a later stage. That matter may be a factor in any balancing exercise the court might undertake, he said.
Ronan Murphy SC, also for Ms Fleming, argued the DPP’s failure to publish the factors to be considered in deciding whether or not to prosecute a case of assisted suicide breached Ms Fleming’s rights to respect for her private life under Article 8 of the ECHR.
His side had written to the DPP who had replied she could not provide such guidelines and said a decision whether to prosecute would depend on the circumstances of each individual case.
The DPP in the UK had published such guidelines following a European Court of Human Rights decision upholding a challenge to the UK failure to publish such guidelines and the Irish DPP should do the same, he argued. The DPP must at least indicate whether the public interest would be taken into account as a factor in her decisions.
In other submissions, Mr Murray referred to the Supreme Court decision in a 1996 case permitting further nutrition to be withdrawn from a woman who was in a near permanent vegetative state and argued Ms Fleming was in a stronger position to call in aid the same rights as were recognised in that case.
The 1996 case established a person’s autonomy and self-determination remained operative rights even where the right of life was at stake, counsel said. Those rights encompassed freedom to end one’s life, he submitted.
Mr Murray also relied on a decision of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, Canada, earlier this year which concluded the ban on assisted suicide there had infringed rights to equality, life, liberty and security of the person.
Later today, William Hennessy, Grove Avenue, Blackrock, Co Dublin, applied to be joined to the case on grounds he has significant physical injuries and is concerned his right to life could be adversely affected by the case. The State opposed the application and the court ruled he had made out no grounds at this stage to be joined.