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'My freedom would be a small price to pay to help Marie'

THE partner of multiple sclerosis sufferer Marie Fleming said that his own freedom would be a small price to pay to give his wife's a peaceful death.

Marie's disease means she is unable to move any of her limbs and has growing difficulty speaking and swallowing. She wants to have the right to a painless and peaceful death

But last week Ms Fleming (59) lost her High Court challenge against the s strict legal ban on assisted suicide.

Under current laws, her partner Tom Curran or other family members could face a 14-year jail term if convicted of helping the Co Wicklow native die.

Mr Curran said that he is unsure whether pursuing a legal appeal would be the right thing to do at this time.

"The first thing we need to do to give us both reassurance that Marie could have a painless and peaceful death is to put in place a plan," he said.

"By putting in place that plan, I have broken the law."

Mr Curran said that the assumption is that they will fight the ruling and press on to the Supreme Court and beyond.

But their families are currently talking about what is the right thing to do.

"We are still weighing up the benefit of going for the Supreme Court and the pressures it would place on Marie," he said.

"We will decide at some point this week ... we just need to make the right decision for Marie."

Mr Curran, who met his partner 20 years ago, said that he would be heartbroken without her.

"I'll be devastated if Marie dies. My whole life revolves around Marie," he said.

"That's not because it has to. It's because I want it to.

"I think that's what love is about. I think people who love each other do an awful lot of things that put them in danger. The only danger that I would be in is of losing my freedom," he added.

"My freedom is a very small price to pay for that."







Serious

The interview with the couple was broadcast on RTE's Moment Of Truth programme and screened last night, but was filmed in September.

The couple were offered some hope by the High Court last week that Mr Curran might not face prosecution if he helps his partner to take her own life.

The couple, who both have grown-up children from previous relationships, have always enjoyed a strong relationship.

"I wouldn't call it love at first sight but things certainly moved very quickly," Mr Curran said. "Within a couple of weeks of meeting each other Marie told me she had MS on the beach in Arklow.

"That gave me the opportunity, before things got serious, to walk." As the MS progressed, Mr Curran said that the relapses became more frequent and the recovery wasn't quite 100pc.

"While physically her body has been ravaged by MS, her brain is perfect," he said.

The couple said that Ms Fleming made the decision herself that if the MS got to the point that she didn't want to tolerate it, she would want to end her life.

"That would be her way of getting away from the awful condition she has. And my choice is to help her do that," Mr Curran said.

"But I had no idea of the consequences of doing that, particularly the legal consequences."

hnews@herald.ie