Vicky Phelan says people with terminal illnesses should be given the choice to die

Phelan appeals for TDs to support assisted dying bill


Campaigner Vicky Phelan has appealed to politicians to support the "Dying with Dignity Bill" that will be reintroduced in the Dáil tomorrow.

People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny has brought a bill on assisted dying in Ireland back on the political agenda in recent weeks.

At a press conference this afternoon, Ms Phelan said people with terminal illnesses should be given the choice to die.

"No matter how good palliative care is, there is still a certain amount of suffering that palliative care often cannot get on top of," she said.

"I have two young children and I'm going to die within the next few years and I don't want my children's last memories to be of me dying in pain.

"I want to make that choice."

Mr Kenny said the bill would give someone who has a terminal illness the right to have voluntary-assisted dying.

He said that the bill includes a two-week "cooling off period", which means if somebody chooses to reverse their decision that will happen.

He said he is open for the bill being amended and appealed to TDs to keep politics out of the legislation and keep it on the grounds of "empathy and compassion".

Mr Kenny also called for political parties to allow politicians to have a free vote on the matter.

The is not the first time the issue has been raised politically.

In 2015, Independent TD John Halligan introduced a bill in the Dáil seeking to introduce assisted dying in Ireland.

It came after the late university lecturer Marie Fleming, who in the late stages of multiple sclerosis, took a landmark challenge to the Supreme Court on Ireland's legal ban on assisted suicide.

Ms Fleming, 59, lost that battle in the Supreme Court in 2013 and died later that year.

However, the court did say that there was nothing to stop the Oireachtas dealing with this issue.

That bill stalled when Mr Halligan became a minister in 2016.

Ms Fleming's partner Tom Curran, who was also at today's press conference, said people with terminal illnesses should be given the choice to die.

Also speaking was Gail O'Rourke, who was prosecuted in 2013 with making arrangements for MS-sufferer and friend Bernadette Forde to travel to Dignitas in Zurich, where assisted dying is legal.

Ms O'Rourke was found not guilty.

She said she does not want people to have to go through the same thing she did.

Ms O'Rourke said: "If Bernadette was here today too, she would be fighting the fight. This is not mandatory this is just a choice and suicide is not illegal.

"I would like to see nobody else go through what I went through in the legal system, thankfully I was acquitted, or what Bernadette went through when the option for Dignatas was taken away.

"She had to do things very much on her own and the fear and the terror she went through in the last very hard years of her life."

Labour leader Alan Kelly has also voiced his support for the bill.

"I believe the time is now to deal with this issue, I believe as legislators we should do so," he said. 

"Now there is a public mood as regards giving people their dignity and that is why the Labour Party is supporting this legislation."