Fleming -v- Ireland & Ors - SUMMARY OF JUDGMENT, [2013] IEHC 2 (2013)

Docket Number:2012 10589 P
Party Name:Fleming, Ireland & Ors - SUMMARY OF JUDGMENT
Judge:Kearns P.

THE HIGH COURT [2012 No. 10589P]

Kearns P.

Carney J.

Hogan J.






of Judgment* delivered by Kearns P. on 10th day of January, 2013


The plaintiff is a 59 year old woman who has gallantly fought multiple sclerosis since she was first diagnosed with this disease in 1989. Her courage in adversity is both humbling and inspiring. She was in many ways the most remarkable witness which any member of this Court has ever been privileged to encounter.

The plaintiff’s body has been ravaged by this insidious disease to the point where she is now almost immobile. Her life has been rendered miserable and she suffers great pain and distress. She now wishes to avail of physician assisted suicide at a time of her own choosing. To this end she challenges the constitutionality of the ban on assisted suicide contained in s. 2(2) of the Criminal Law (Suicide) Act 1993 and, in the alternative, seeks a declaration of incompatibility pursuant to s. 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003.

So far as the constitutional claim is concerned, at its heart lies the contention that, as the obligation imposed on the State by its laws to protect and vindicate the “person” in Article 40.3.2 protects personal autonomy in key life decisions of this nature, those rights have been impermissibly interfered with by a complete statutory ban on assisted suicide. While the Court agrees that personal autonomy (especially in medical matters) is a core constitutional value and that the plaintiff’s Article 40.3.2 right is engaged by a ban of this kind, we cannot agree that this legislation amounts to a disproportionate interference with this right.

While a competent adult patient has the right to refuse medical treatment, even if this leads to death, the taking of active steps by a third party to bring about the death of another is an entirely different matter, even if the difference in some cases between the two types of decisions may sometimes be nuanced and blurred. If this Court could tailor-make a solution which would suit the needs of Ms. Fleming alone without any possible implications for third parties or society at large, there might be a good deal to be said for her Article 40.3.2 case. But this Court cannot be so satisfied.

The detailed evidence available to us demonstrates that the State has established an ample evidential basis to support the...

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