Ireland high court rules paralyzed woman has no right to assisted suicide

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Ireland [official website] on Monday rejected an appeal [judgement] by a paralyzed woman seeking to allow her partner to help her commit suicide. The appellant, Marie Fleming, suffers from end stage multiple sclerosis, a disease of the nervous system, and as a result is paralyzed. Fleming challenged the constitutionality of Ireland's 1993 Criminal Suicide Act [text] which decriminalized suicide but provides that, "A person who aids, abets, counsels or procures the suicide of another, or an attempt by another to commit suicide, shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years." Fleming argued [AP report] that blocking her access to assisted suicide violated her rights to personal and bodily autonomy and self determination under the European Convention on Human Rights [official website] as integrated into the Irish Constitution [text, PDF]. The court concluded that there is no explicit right to commit suicide in the constitution. The court noted, however, that the ruling does not prevent the Irish Parliament from passing legislation that would allow assisted suicide for individuals such as Fleming.

The right to die [JURIST news archive] has been a contentious issue around the world.The only European countries that allow euthanasia are Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Switzerland. In December a report released by the French government recommended [JURIST report] that the country permit doctors to "accelerate death" for terminally ill patients seeking doctor-assisted euthanasia. In August the High Court of England and Wales denied [JURIST report] the plea of a paralyzed man challenging the legitimacy of the Suicide Act 1961 and other laws barring his ability to commit suicide. In 2011 an Indian high court ruled [JURIST report] passive euthanasia was permitted under certain circumstances. In 2010 a German court ruled [JURIST report] that removing a patient from life support would not be a criminal offense if the patient had previously given consent.

 

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