Wednesday 17 January 2018

Assisted suicide trial is told of final moments

Bernadette Forde

A WOMAN accused of helping her friend take her own life alleged to gardai that another person was with the deceased when she took a lethal dose of barbiturates.

Bernadette Forde (51), a former human resources manager with Guinness, took her own life in June 2011, using the drug pentobarbital when she was in the latter stages of multiple sclerosis.

Her friend and carer Gail O'Rorke (43) is accused of helping her obtain the drug from Mexico and take it. She is also accused of attempting to help Ms Forde get to a euthanasia clinic in Switzerland, a plan that was thwarted when the travel agent alerted gardaí.

The prosecution has now concluded its evidence. The jury will learn tomorrow if there will be defence witnesses.

Ms O'Rorke (43), a taxi driver from Kilclare Gardens, Tallaght has pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to aiding and abetting the suicide of Ms Forde by helping her to procure and administer a toxic substance between April 20, 2011 and June 6, 2011 at a location in Dublin.

She also denies that she attempted to aid and abet the suicide of Ms Forde by means of attempting to arrange travel to Zurich, Switzerland for such purpose between March 10 and April 20, 2011 and that she procured the suicide of Ms Forde between June 4 and June 6, 2011 by means of making funeral arrangements for Ms Forde in advance of her death.

The trial heard that Ms O'Rorke told gardai in interview that another friend, Mary Lundy, had got in contact with euthanasia organisation Exit International on behalf of Ms Forde.

Detective Inspector Sean Campbell said that he interviewed Gail O'Rorke in August 2011, two months after the death of Ms Forde. He said Ms O'Rorke claimed that Ms Lundy had used the deceased's credit card to buy a book online which detailed methods of suicide.

Ms O'Rorke said that Ms Lundy also set up a "Hushmail" account, a private email service, to make contact with Exit International. Ms O'Rorke said the deceased was the "driving force behind this plan."

She said that on Sunday, June 5, 2011 she went to Ms Forde's house. She said she washed her and talked about "some very important things." Several family members then came to visit.

Ms O'Rorke told gardai that Ms Lundy "had taken over the reins" in organising the suicide after the Dignitas episode and she had taken a step back.

Gardaí asked if there was anyone with Ms Forde when she took the pills. She replied that it was agreed beforehand that Ms Lundy would be there.

She said Ms Lundy later told her that they had a few drinks and at about half eight or nine Ms Forde said it was time. She said she took the drink and asked "didn't I do well?" Ms Lundy allegedly responded that she did great.

She said Ms Lundy told her that after two minutes nothing had happened and Ms Forde began to panic that she had bought "a dud". She then started snoring and Ms Lundy left her as she was close to death.

Ms O'Rorke said that they agreed with Ms Forde that they would all say afterwards that the deceased "was very much alive" when Ms Lundy left.

She said Ms Lundy later told her it was the hardest thing she ever had to do.

The trial continues.

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