Terminally-ill woman seeks State to pay costs

Marie Fleming, pictured with partner Tom Curran: Lost case.

A terminally ill woman is seeking orders requiring the State to pay the substantial legal costs of her unsuccessful landmark action aimed at overturning the blanket ban on assisted suicide.

Brian Murray, counsel for Marie Fleming, asked the seven-judge court yesterday to exercise its exceptional jurisdiction to make an order for costs in favour of Ms Fleming despite the fact she had failed in her action.

Counsel for the State asked for the matter to be adjourned for hearing at a later date due to a misunderstanding by his side the matter was for mention only today and not for hearing.

Chief Justice Susan Denham said the court would like to have legal submissions from the sides in relation to the exceptional circumstances in which costs orders could be awarded to a losing party.

The judge fixed dates for those submissions to be provided with a view to a hearing in October.

Ms Fleming, aged 59, living in Co Wicklow, was not in court. She is in the final stages of multiple sclerosis and, in her proceedings, sought orders permitting her to be lawfully assisted to have a peaceful and dignified death at a time of her choice without the risk of prosecution for anyone who helped her.

When the High Court rejected her case last January, she appealed to the Supreme Court against the findings the blanket ban did not breach her rights under the Constitution and European Convention on Human Rights. She did not appeal a finding that the DPP had no power to issue guidelines as to what factors would be considered when deciding whether or not to prosecute cases of assisted suicide. The court had said it hoped the DPP would adopt a “humane” approach in the case.

Last April, the Supreme Court ruled the right to life under the Constitution “does not import a right to die” in what it described as this “very tragic case”.


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