THE Irish courts "can never sanction any step to terminate a life", the Supreme Court heard yesterday. And the policy of laws decriminalising suicide is adverse to all suicide, the State argued.
Asked by Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman if the consequence of that position means someone such as terminally ill Marie Fleming may die "an extremely distressing death", Michael Cush, for the State, agreed that was the case.
That was not to say a choice could not be made in relation to people in her position but that choice was not for the courts, he said. Ms Fleming's case had generated "huge debate", he noted.
He was making submissions in the appeal by Ms Fleming against the High Court's rejection of her challenge to the absolute ban on assisted suicide in Section 2.2 of the Criminal Law Suicide Act 1993.
Ms Fleming (59), living in Co Wicklow, is in the final stages of multiple sclerosis and says she needs to be assisted to fulfil her wish of a dignified death at a time of her choice.
In her particular circumstances as a severely disabled person unable to take her own life unaided, the ban disproportionately infringes her personal autonomy rights under the Constitution and European Convention on Human Rights, she claims.
She also claims the ban is discriminatory in that an able-bodied person may take their own life lawfully but she cannot be lawfully helped to do the same.
Yesterday, Mr Cush said suicide is a serious social problem and its decriminalisation in the 1993 Act did not create a right to commit suicide.
If there is a legal right to commit suicide, there is no constitutional and no general right to do so, he argued. The policy of the law remains "adverse to all suicide" and that was why aiding and abetting a suicide is an offence. The appeal resumes.