Former lecturer 'wants to go peacefully'

Former university lecturer Marie Fleming fears she will choke or starve to death if the courts do not let her end her life with assistance.

Former lecturer 'wants to go peacefully'

Former university lecturer Marie Fleming fears she will choke or starve to death if the courts do not let her end her life with assistance.

The multiple sclerosis (MS) sufferer is fighting for the right to die peacefully in her home in the arms of her loving partner Tom Curran, when she decides it is time to go.

It is the first legal case of its kind in Ireland.

Diagnosed with MS more than 25 years ago, Ms Fleming revealed she is in the final stages of the disabling disease and that she may die within months.

“I more than likely could choke to death, where my swallow would stop and then the saliva would dribble out of my mouth or choke me to death,” the 58-year-old told the High Court in Dublin last month from her wheelchair.

“It’s not the MS that kills you but the symptoms of MS.”

The mother-of-two said if the law is not changed she will have a horrible death, like someone she knew with MS who eventually starved to death.

“That’s not how I want to go,” she added.

The academic was born and raised in Lifford, Co Donegal, and studied in Derry and Wales before working in the University of Swansea and University College Dublin.

Once a keen gardener, her only enjoyment now is looking at her garden, listening to the radio and dictating creating writing for short periods of time.

She takes 22 tablets a day, is in constant pain, can only control the movement of her head and is incontinent.

Her speech and swallow are both significantly affected, making her frequently choke when swallowing liquids.

Ms Fleming pleaded with the three-judge court to spare her a horrible death.

“I want to go peacefully in my own home with the people I love around me,” added the grandmother-of-seven.

She admitted that she considered ending her own life about five years ago by travelling to Dignitas, a clinic in Switzerland where terminal patients can die, but reconsidered.

Instead she began a legal challenge against section 2.2 of the Criminal Law Suicide Act, which makes it an offence to aide, abet, counsel or procure the suicide of another.

The crime carries a maximum of 14 years in prison.

“I want to know that I can die at a time of my choosing in Tom’s arms and with my family around me, with the fear that any person would be subjected to criminal prosecution,” she said in court papers.

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