Kenny to visit right to die activist

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is to meet terminally ill multiple sclerosis patient Marie Fleming in her home, her partner has revealed.

The right-to-die campaigner had urged the Taoiseach and other legislators to see how she lives in a bid to get them to pass laws on assisted suicide.

Her partner, Tom Curran, held a “good, frank conversation” with Mr Kenny for an hour after he previously rejected the possibility of legislation on the issue.

“[Marie] wants people to understand her point of view and the way she lives and then make the decision,” said Mr Curran.

“But [Mr Kenny] did express a wish to come and see her and he’d be more than welcome.”

Ms Fleming, 59, who lost a Supreme Court challenge earlier this year to end herlife with assistance, is wheelchair-bound and can only move her head.

She lives in constant pain, cannot swallow, and suffers choking sessions whichshe fears will kill her.

Mr Curran, who said his partner has plenty to live for at the moment, faces up to 14 years in jail if convicted of helping her die.

The meeting with Mr Kenny was arranged before health chiefs were criticised for forcing the couple to prove Ms Fleming’s sickness to have a medical cardrenewed.

Mr Curran, a former IT worker, said Mr Kenny also felt the incident had been deplorable.

However, he said he accepted an explanation that medial cards were now issued via a centralised computer system and no longer personally at a local level.

“The thing that infuriated me so much about it was that, when media did get hold of it, the problem seemed to be resolved,” said Mr Curran.

“I had made several phone calls and all I was getting was numerous letters andthe ridiculous situation of being asked to verify Marie’s condition.

“Why couldn’t they have responded to my phonecalls?”

He said the couple — who survive on her disability benefit and his carer’sallowance — knew she would eventually get a new card but feared they would not be able to pay for the 30-plus tablets a day Ms Fleming takes when her current card expired at the end of the month.

She was one of thousands of sick people being assessed for eligibility for free healthcare in a cost-saving crackdown.

Mr Curran said he found Mr Kenny “a very understanding man” during their meeting to discuss his views on assisted suicide.

He said they had differing views, but that he understood Mr Kenny’s concernsover safeguards.

“Everybody is entitled to their own opinion and he has an opinion,” he said.

“He is in a position where he has to legislate and where he has to think about everybody else, and the whole issue that comes up every time is thing of safeguards.”

Mr Curran has put together a working group to examine possible legislation and safeguards in other countries where assisted suicide is permitted.

“No safeguard going to be completely foolproof.

“There are going people who will abuse, there’s no doubt about that.

“But, for the small number of people that that will happen, I don’t think peoplelike Marie and other people... We had eight people travel to Dignitas [an assisted dying clinic in Switzerland] to be helped to die from Ireland, so it’s obviously something people do want.

“Everybody we speak to is in favour.”


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