Marie Fleming’s partner: I helped dozens to plan their deaths

The partner of the late right-to-die campaigner Marie Fleming says he helped dozens of seriously and terminally ill people plan their deaths with loved ones who risk jail for assisting them.

Marie Fleming’s partner: I helped dozens to plan their deaths

In a plea to the Government to legislate for assisted dying, Tom Curran said the current situation ignored the reality that people facing prolonged and difficult deaths were secretly arranging to have their lives ended at a time of their choosing.

He said it was inhuman that they had to live with the threat of a criminal prosecution for assisting with a humane act, and he revealed that he still feared a garda investigation into his role in assisting Marie to die in December 2013.

“It’s two and a half years ago but I’m still afraid of the knock on the door,” he said. “I was surprised at the time that there wasn’t an investigation and that we could bury Marie in peace.

“Marie got her wish, which was to die peacefully, and we’re at peace now with her death but there’s always that fear of the law and that’s why it needs to be changed.”

Marie Fleming photographed in January 2013 at the Supreme Court during her appeal to be allowed die peacefully in the arms of her partner without facing the threat of jail. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Marie Fleming photographed in January 2013 at the Supreme Court during her appeal to be allowed die peacefully in the arms of her partner without facing the threat of jail. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Mr Curran said he was unsure how the authorities would react to his disclosure, particularly after the prosecution and acquittal last year of Dublin woman Gail O’Rorke on charges of trying to assist the death of her close friend.

However, he said: “It had to come out, otherwise, to a certain extent, what Marie fought for is a waste.”

Mr Curran said he had helped around 200 people make plans to die, mainly through the use of a medication that is banned throughout Europe and must be imported illegally.

“These people are around Europe but they would primarily be in Ireland and England,” he said. “Some people who made plans have died since but I don’t know how they died. They don’t report back to me for obvious reasons.”

He also said he had turned down many others who were “irrationally suicidal” and believes that legalising requests for assistance to die would enable people in this situation to be more open about their difficulties and get help to overcome them.

Mr Curran, from Arklow, Co Wicklow, cared for Marie full-time for more than 15 years as she battled with multiple sclerosis.

He supported her High Court challenge to the Criminal Law (Suicide) Act of 1993 which, she argued, was discriminatory as it decriminalised suicide for able-bodied people but prevented people with restricted movement from having someone help end their life because assisting a suicide can carry a jail sentence of 14 years.

Ms Fleming lost the case and subsequent Supreme Court appeal in early 2013.

Marie Fleming pictured with her partner,Tom Curran.
Marie Fleming pictured with her partner,Tom Curran.

The court cases clarified that there was no constitutional bar on the Oireachtas legislating for assisted dying and Mr Curran, along with legal experts and Independent TD John Halligan, drew up the Dying With Dignity Bill, which was introduced in the Dáil last December.

The bill provides for assisted dying for people with incurable and progressive illness and requires each case to be verified by two medical practitioners and a third independent witness. Mr Halligan, since promoted to minister of state for Training and Skills, complained immediately prior to his appointment that the bill was “lost” in the lottery system used to determine what private members bills get Dáil time.

Mr Curran said if the Government feared tackling the issue through legislation, a referendum was an option.

“I would have no objection to having it put to the people because I believe they would back it once the safeguards were built in to protect vulnerable people,” he said.

The Department of Justice said: “There are no plans to bring forward legislative proposals in this area.”

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