THE Supreme Court is likely to fast-track an appeal by terminally ill Marie Fleming in her bid to be allowed have an assisted suicide.
The 59-year-old, who yesterday lost her High Court challenge against Ireland's strict ban on the so called 'right to die', can now appeal to the Supreme Court to overturn the decision.
Normally such appeals would take many months, if not years.
But the three-judge High Court acknowledged that Marie Fleming's body is "ravaged by this insidious disease" and said that any appeal is likely to be given an early court date.
Under existing law Marie's partner Tom Curran could face a jail term of 14 years if he helps her to die.
The only glimmer of hope in yesterday's decision upholding the ban on assisted suicide, was in remarks by the judges that Mr Curran might be spared a conviction if he helped her to die at a time of her choosing.
The unanimous decision by the three judges said the court felt sure that the Director of Public Prosecutions, "in this, of all cases ,would exercise her discretion in a human and sensitive fashion" when it came to deciding whether or not to prosecute. Describing Mrs Fleming's circumstances as "unique and special" they said if the court could "tailor-make" a solution "for Mrs Fleming alone" without any implication for society at large then "there might be a good deal to be said" for her challenge.
There was ample evidence, however, to support the view that any relaxation of the ban "would be inimical to the public interest in protecting the most vulnerable members of society".
They added it would be "impossible to ensure that the aged, the disabled, the poor, the unwanted, the rejected, the lonely, the impulsive, the financially compromised and emotionally vulnerable would not avail of this option in order to avoid a sense of being a burden on their family and society".
Marie Fleming was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis 32 years ago and for the last 12 years her partner Tom Curran has been her full-time carer.
Now continually in pain, her disease has left her unable to move any of her limbs and is increasingly affecting her speech and ability to swallow.
The family has yet to decide if they will appeal yesterday's decision to a higher court.
In the meantime they have said that it would be "inappropriate at the present time to discuss any specific legal or factual aspects of the case having regard to the likelihood of an appeal".