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'Allow us die with dignity' - Vicky's plea over new bill

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Terminally-ill Vicky Phelan outside Leinster House yesterday

Terminally-ill Vicky Phelan outside Leinster House yesterday

Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

Terminally-ill Vicky Phelan outside Leinster House yesterday

Vicky Phelan has appealed to politicians to allow her and others to die with dignity.

The cervical cancer campaigner, who is terminally ill, backed an assisted dying bill to be introduced in the Dáil today.

Her message to politicians, she said, was: "Allow us to die a peaceful death with dignity.

"Palliative does not always work. I have seen people in recent years with a certain amount of suffering that no pain management can get on top of.

"I don't want my children to see me like that. All I am asking for is a choice."

Labour Party leader Alan Kelly said his party supported the bill, with Solidarity/PBP behind it, along with Independents, as campaigners called for a free vote among political parties.

Failed

They pointed out that recent opinion polls had shown up to 85pc of people in Ireland are in favour of an assisted dying law.

Tom Curran, partner of the late Marie Farrell, who took an unsuccessful right-to-die case in 2013, said a previous bill that he had written several years ago with the help of four barristers had failed to progress.

Gesturing towards Leinster House, he said that while the High Court had said the Oireachtas had the power to legislate, "there was not the interest or the courage from in there to do anything about it".

The previous bill was introduced by former junior minister for science John Halligan, and Gino Kenny TD said his bill was virtually identical, containing all necessary safeguards.

Gail O'Rourke, who stood trial and was acquitted of helping her friend Bernadette Forde to die, said there was no "slippery slope" evident in other countries that had introduced such legislation.

"This is not mandatory, it is just a choice," she said.

She said divorce and abortion had been introduced in Ireland and the legislation was about extending freedom of conscience to citizens.

Mr Kenny said while people would object on various grounds, the issue was essentially about empathy and compassion.

His bill would grant the right to die to the over-18s only, unlike in the Netherlands, where the legislation allows children assert their right to die and on grounds that include depression.

Vicky Phelan said she had suffered from depression, had sought help and come through it, and a schedule of illnesses could be specified under the law, if passed.

"I remember watching Marie Fleming's case, when she couldn't make that choice, and being horrified at what that woman had to endure," Ms Phelan said.