PhD candidate, Department of Sociology & Philosophy, University College Cork, Ireland

Month: April, 2015

Helping a person to die – why new compassionate laws are needed

Wed, Apr 29, 2015,    http://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/helping-a-person-to-die-why-new-compassionate-laws-are-needed-1.2192306

Helping another to die is probably the most intensely personal test of individual conscience known to mankind. Most of us are shocked and revolted by murder, suicide and genocide, but when someone we know and love cries out, with justification, for help to die, who among us dares to respond? If we help to accelerate death in these circumstances, are we being ruthless or humane?

Whatever we might answer, in Ireland it is illegal to help another to die – with a punishment, if convicted, of up to 14 years in jail. Notwithstanding this, a recent Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll among Irish people found that 54 per cent would do just that. This means that 54 per cent of Irish people would risk 14 years in jail to help someone they love do something that is perfectly legal in Ireland.

That may seem confusing. In Ireland, since 1993, the taking of one’s own life is not illegal, but providing help to someone to take his or her own life is illegal. It is probably the only law that exists where it is illegal to help someone do something that is perfectly legal.

Marie’s challenge

The issue of assisted dying came into focus in Ireland over the past few years. The first was when it was made public that I was prepared to help the person I love, Marie Fleming, to die at a time of her choosing. The second was Marie’s constitutional challenge to the blanket ban on assisting a person to die.

Part of the grounds for that challenge was that a disabled person was unable to do something that was legally available to an able-bodied person. That is, that her disability brought on by her having MS made it physically impossible for her to take her own life. Our Constitution does not allow discrimination on the basis of disability.

The court in its judgment found that there were grounds for discrimination, but that to strike out the law could put vulnerable people in danger.

I agree completely with this view. Vulnerable people need to be protected, but not at the total exclusion of rational, terminally ill people who decide they do not want to suffer on. The court stated that there was nothing preventing the Oireachtas from changing the law to allow assistance to be provided to rational adults while still providing protection to the vulnerable.

That was two years ago. The only thing preventing this happening is the courage, or lack of, on the part of our legislators.

The British lead

The court also stated that it believed the DPP would use the same guidelines issued by the UK DPP in deciding whether to prosecute in the future. In other words, that if a person was a carrying out the wishes of a rational adult with an incurable illness who was making an informed decision to die, and was acting out of compassion for that person, it is unlikely they would be prosecuted.

Why, then, was Gail O’Rorke charged with providing assistance to Bernadette Forde in the act of taking her own life to escape the life that MS had dealt her – a charge that Gail has now been acquitted of?

When this law was brought in in 1993, its intention was to decriminalise suicide and create a new law of assisting a suicide. It allowed anybody in Ireland to take their own life or attempt to do so without they or their family falling foul of the law. But in the way it was drawn up, it excludes the only people who might have a reasonable justification in taking their own lives: rational adults with terminal illnesses who face the prospect of a prolonged, painful death.

We are all human, and sometimes legislators don’t get things right first time out. This surely is one of those times. When more than 80 per cent of Irish people feel that the law is wrong and 54 per cent are prepared to break it to help a loved one end their suffering, it’s certainly time to take notice.

A bill will be coming before the Dáil setting out how the law should be amended to both provide for people such as Marie and Bernadette Forde, and to protect the vulnerable. That will be a chance for the Taoiseach and his Government to show their compassion.

Tom Curran’s partner, Marie Fleming, brought a constitutional challenge to the blanket ban on assisting a person to die


Curran urges Kenny to show ‘compassion’ and change law

29th Apr 2015    http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/courts/curran-urges-kenny-to-show-compassion-and-change-law-31180947.html

Mr Curran’s partner, Marie Fleming, died in his arms in December 2013, following a high-profile appeal against Ireland’s assisted suicide laws.

She had been unable to end her own life and had suffered from severe multiple sclerosis .

Speaking after the acquittal of Gail O’Rorke, who stood accused of attempting to help a friend with multiple sclerosis end her life, he said Mr Kenny must “wake up and realise urgent change is needed.”

“He needs to go along with the number of people in Ireland who want this law changed,” he told the Irish Independent.

“Every poll that’s been done in the country has found that assisted dying should be available for the terminally ill.

“The last poll was as high as 87pc. If that’s not a mandate to do something about this, I don’t know what is.”

He added: “Rational people should be allowed to make decisions for themselves, and to end their suffering, when they have a life-limiting, or terminal illness. There’s a bill which will be coming before the Dáil soon, and I would ask him to take it seriously, and debate it properly.

“He should amend it whatever way is deemed necessary, to provide protection for vulnerable people, because they have to be protected.” Visibly upset and emotional, he described Gail O’Rorke’s acquittal as “just and correct”, adding that she should “never have stood trial.”

However, Cora Sherlock, deputy chairperson of the Pro Life Campaign, insisted euthanasia and assisted suicide “are not a solution.”

“The best and most compassionate way to reassure the terminally ill that their lives matter – just as much as those of healthy citizens – is to provide them with proper palliative care.”

Marie Fleming’s partner ‘shocked’ O’Rorke put on trial

Wednesday, April 29, 2015    http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/marie-flemings-partner-shocked-ororke-put-on-trial-327604.html

Right- to-die campaigner Tom Curran has said the trial of Gail O’Rorke for assisting the suicide of her friend should never have taken place.

Mr Curran was one of a large number of people present throughout the eight-day trial which found Ms O’Rorke not guilty of trying to help MS sufferer Bernadette Forde end her life by travelling to a euthanasia clinic in Switzerland.

Mr Curran’s partner Marie Fleming, also an MS sufferer, took a case to the Supreme Court in 2013, challenging the ban on assisted suicide. The Supreme Court found against her but said that the DPP may use “discretion” in prosecuting such cases. Ms Fleming passed away in December 2013.

Mr Curran said Ms O’Rorke should never have found herself in court: “Guilty or not guilty, this trial should never have taken place considering what the Supreme Court judge said about using the same discretion that they use in the UK.”

He said he was shocked the Director of Public Prosecutions brought charges against Ms O’Rorke. “Considering the fact that Marie had gone to the trouble of challenging the constitutionality of the law, to protect me, not to protect her.

“Quite recently, 53% of people said they would help a loved one to die. That’s 53% of the people who would be prepared to break this law and that says there is something very definitely wrong with this law.”

He said Ms Forde was a very strong woman. “She got what she wanted just like Marie got what she wanted. She had a peaceful death and we’ll leave them both in peace.” He said Ms O’Rorke was “very relieved” and “very emotional” following the verdict.

Ms O’Rorke didn’t speak publicly afterwards but released a statement welcoming the “hoped-for verdict”.

Assisted suicide case reveals complexity of subject

Wed Apr 29th 2015    http://www.irishtimes.com/news/health/assisted-suicide-case-reveals-complexity-of-subject-1.2192407

Ireland’s laws lag behind much of Europe on this delicate issue as O’Rorke case showed.

“What would I do if I were in Gail O’Rorke’s position?” the lawyer prosecuting the Dublin woman tellingly asked during her trial on charges of assisting the suicide of a friend.

For if this trial showed anything, it is that the issue of assisted suicide is even more complex than we thought.

O’Rorke emerged from the trial as a decent woman who believed she was doing the right thing by her friend, Bernadette Forde, without any inkling of the legal morass into which she was sinking.

Assisted suicide is, understandably, a contentious issue but O’Rorke seemed like the wrong person to be made an example of. Unaware that the practice was illegal, she brought suspicion down upon her head by telling a travel agent about the real purpose of her and Forde’s visit to Switzerland.

That resulted in the involvement of gardaí and the collapse of Forde’s plans to attend the Dignitas euthanasia support centre in Zurich.

Other cases

O’Rorke was no flag waver for the cause of euthanasia and assisted suicide, unlike Rev George Exoo, the American Unitarian minister who travelled to Ireland and was present at the death ofRosemary Toole Gilhooley.

She paid Exoo and a business partner $2,500 for assisting in her death.

In 2007, an attempt to extradite Exoo from the US failed; the only other time a prosecution has been raised under the Criminal Law (Suicide) Act.

This legislation, dating from 1993, decriminalised suicide but stated that anyone who aids or procures the suicide of another is guilty of an offence punishable by imprisonment for up to 14 years.

That case differs from the current one in that Forde was suffering from an aggressive form of multiple sclerosis, whereas Toole Gilhooley had depression, which is not a terminal illness.

Exoo declined to attend the inquest into Gilhooley’s death; O’Rorke co-operated in every way with gardaí and the courts.

In 2013, the Supreme Court rejected the case brought by Marie Fleming against the ban on assisted suicide.

The judges ruled that the right to life clause in the Constitution did not import a “right to die” and stated there was no explicit right to either die by suicide or determine the time of one’s own death. Marie Fleming, who was in the late stages of multiple sclerosis, died shortly after.

Legal position

O’Rorke’s acquittal hardly adds or subtracts from the overall legal position, though it appears to show that the business of getting assistance to end one’s life is getting easier for those so minded.

At least eight Irish people are believed to have used the services of Dignitas to end their lives.

Ireland doesn’t have a good record of dealing promptly with emerging ethical issues – euthanasia or assisted suicide is legal in Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland – but the State will eventually have to deal with this thorny subject.

Assisted suicide case woman cleared

Tue 28th Apr 2015    http://www.independent.ie/breaking-news/irish-news/assisted-suicide-case-woman-cleared-31177664.html

A taxi driver has been found not guilty of attempting to assist the suicide of a wheelchair bound friend suffering the final stages of multiple sclerosis.

In what is believed to be the first trial of its kind in Ireland, Gail O’Rorke, 43, from Kilclare Gardens in Tallaght, Dublin, was charged over the booking of flights to Switzerland between March 10 and April 20 2011 to travel to the Dignitas clinic.

Bernadette Forde, 51, a former employee with Guinness in Dublin, died at her home in Morehampton Mews, Donnybrook, Dublin 4 on June 6 2011.

She was unable to go to Zurich after a travel agent alerted authorities that flights had been booked for her, her nephew Bernard Forde Monaghan and O’Rorke.

A jury of six men and six women at the Circuit Criminal Court in Dublin returned the not guilty verdict after more than seven hours of deliberations.

The jury’s verdict was by majority decision.

In emotional scenes, Ms O’Rorke burst into tears and clasped her hands to her face.

Supporters, relatives and friends who were in the court throughout the trial clapped and cheered as the verdict was delivered.

Judge Patrick McCartan told Ms O’Rorke: “You have been found not guilty. You are free to go.”

She was Ms Forde’s cleaner before becoming her friend and carer over the last 10 years of her life as she became wheelchair bound following a devastating car accident in the Brown Thomas car park in Dublin.

During the trial the court heard how Ms O’Rorke answered panic alarm calls day and night if Ms Forde fell, sacrificed hours on the road earning money in her taxi to care for her, washed her feet, helped her in the bathroom and ensured she got outside.

Last week she was found not guilty of two charges in connection with the suicide on the direction of Judge Patrick McCartan.

Ms O’Rorke was initially cleared of aiding and abetting Ms Forde’s suicide between April 20 and June 6 in 2011 by helping her to procure and administer a toxic substance.

The court heard Ms Forde signed for a courier package at her home which contained barbiturates sourced from Mexico.

Ms O’Rorke was also found not guilty last week of procuring the suicide by making funeral arrangements from June 4-6 2011 in advance of the death.

Ms Forde was found dead in a wheelchair in her living room having taken a lethal dose of barbiturates.

Judge McCartan thanked the jurors and told them they would not be asked to sit on a jury for 10 years.

“Justice has been served,” he said.

Ms Forde was diagnosed with primary progressive MS in 2001 and had to give up her job in the human resources department in Guinness.

In 2008 she was confined to a wheelchair after the car park crash caused by her leg going into spasm – a common MS symptom – which forced the accelerator and slammed the vehicle into a wall.

She spent four months in hospital after that, had multiple liver surgery and both knees were left shattered.

Ms O’Rorke was also in the car and injured in the accident.

The trial also heard Ms Forde wanted to end her own life and no-one could have persuaded her not to.

It heard that her wish to choose her time of death was sparked by the loss in 2010 of her sister Marcena who had cancer.

During the trial the court heard Ms O’Rorke received 30% of Ms Forde’s estate in her will.

Ireland decriminalised suicide in 1993 but the offence of aiding and abetting a suicide remains on the statute books making assisted suicide illegal.

Unlike England and Wales, where guidelines have been issued on when a prosecution should be taken for assisted suicide, no formal advice has been published by the Director of Public Prosecutions in Dublin.

The late Marie Fleming lost a landmark legal battle in Ireland in 2013 for the right to decide her time of death without the risk of anyone being prosecuted for helping her.

Judges in the Supreme Court said the Criminal Law (Suicide) Act would make it illegal but that it remained open for politicians to reform.

Ms Fleming died in her Wicklow home in 2013 while her partner Tom Curran campaigns with Exit International, an organisation which advocates the legalisation of euthanasia.

Ms O’Rorke was initially Ms Forde’s cleaner but as the pair grew to be friends she was in effect her primary carer, willing to answer panic alarm calls at any hour.

The trial heard how over the course of 10 years Ms O’Rorke took her out, washed her feet, helped her in the bathroom and tidied her house.

She was not with Ms Forde on the night she died.

The court heard that during Garda interviews Ms O’Rorke told detectives another friend of Ms Forde’s, Mary Lundy, was with her.

Lawyers for Ms O’Rorke issued a statement on her behalf after the verdict.

“The last four years and in particular the last three weeks have been very difficult for my family and me,” she said.

“The family of my dear late friend Bernadette Forde has had to endure the intrusions into her privacy which she always guarded so carefully. The trial has now concluded with the hoped for verdict.”

Ms O’Rorke thanked the judge, jury and gardai who she said investigated her friend’s death compassionately.

She also thanked her lawyers and added: “Above all I would like to thank my family and friends for their incredible support especially during the past three weeks which has been a truly gruelling ordeal for all of us. Finally I want to thank my husband Barry whose love and support have never faltered.”

Jury to resume deliberations in assisted suicide trial on Tuesday

Mon Apr 27th  http://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/jury-to-resume-deliberations-in-assisted-suicide-trial-on-tuesday-1.2190556

The jury in the trial of a woman accused of helping her friend take her own life will resume their deliberations on Tuesday morning.

On Monday, Judge Patrick McCartan described the accused as a “faithful, honest, decent woman” who was “faced with an immense dilemma”.

Charging the jury on Monday morning, Judge Patrick McCartan at the Circuit Criminal Court told them it was an offence to attempt to aid or abet someone in killing themselves.

“I can’t be clearer; that is the law and you are duty bound by it,” he said.

Gail O’Rorke (43), of Kilclare Gardens in Tallaght, Dublin had pleaded not guilty to three charges relating to the death ofBernadette Forde (51), who died of an overdose in June, 2011.

Last week the judge ordered the jury to find Ms O’Rorke not guilty on two of the three charges.

These were aiding and abetting the suicide by helping Ms Forde procure and administer a toxic substance between April 20th and June 6th, 2011 and of making funeral arrangements before her death. Ms Forde died of an overdose in June 2011.

However, she remains charged with attempting to help Ms Forde travel to Zurich in Switzerland where she had intended to visit the Dignitas euthanasia support centre.

The jury officially began deliberations at 11.11am and finished at 4pm. They must reach a unanimous verdict.

“When it comes to the facts of the case you are the authority and nobody can interfere with your position,” the judge told the jury.

He reminded them the accused did not have to give evidence, and of the presumption of innocence, and said they must be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt of the facts of the case before they could consider a guilty verdict.

Advising them on the Criminal Law (Suicide) Act of 1993, he said that under Section 2 it was no longer an offence to commit suicide but it was for anyone to aid or abet a suicide.

Ms O’Rorke’s prosecution is the first of its kind under the legislation.

“This charge is about the travel arrangements,” he said.

The accused is specifically charged with an attempt to aid and abet a suicide, the judge added.

Explaining the law, he said that in order to attempt such an offence, someone’s actions must be real and with intent. They must be proximate, “not in distance but in acts and, in particular, that they are not remote”.

He told them when Ms O’Rorke was originally intercepted by gardaí at the travel agents she visited they did not pursue the offence, taking instead the “humanitarian route”.

However, he explained, it was their entitlement to apply discretion in such cases, for “humane” reasons.

This had no bearing on the case before them. “It was open to the guards to change their views,” he said.

Gail O’Rorke acquitted on two of the three charges against her

Fri Apr 24th 2015    http://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/courts/circuit-court/gail-o-rorke-acquitted-on-two-of-the-three-charges-against-her-1.2187754

Jury told to find her not guilty of ordering barbiturates and of ‘procuring’ the suicide.

The jury in the trial of a woman accused of helping her friend take her own life has been ordered to find her not guilty on two of the three charges against her.

Following legal argument at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, Judge Patrick McCartan ordered the jury to acquit Gail O’Rorke (43) of ordering a lethal dose of barbiturates from Mexico which were later taken by Bernadette Forde (51) to end her life.

The judge also told the jury of six men and six women to find Ms O’Rorke not guilty of “procuring” the suicide of her friend by helping to organise her funeral before her death.

Ms O’Rorke remains 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.

Judge McCartan told jurors that he was ordering not guilty verdicts in the final two charges because he agreed with the defence’s argument that the prosecution has not produced enough evidence to convict her on the counts.

The prosecution has now concluded its case and the defence is not going into evidence. The jury will now hear closing speeches from both counsel.

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 20th, 2011 and June 6th, 2011 at a location in Dublin.

She also denied 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 10th and April 20th, 2011 and that she procured the suicide of Ms Forde between June 4th and June 6th, 2011 by means of making funeral arrangements for Ms Forde in advance of her death.

Assisted suicide trial: Searches on deceased’s computer for ‘peaceful pill handbook’

Wed, 22 Apr, 2015     http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/courts/assisted-suicide-trial-searches-on-deceaseds-computer-for-peaceful-pill-handbook-31163432.html

THE trial of a woman accused of assisting the suicide of her friend has heard evidence of internet searches on the computer of the deceased for the term “peaceful pill handbook.”

Retired Detective Garda Martin Hogan told the trial that he recovered files on the computer of the late Bernadette Forde (51) which suggested there had also been internet searches for the term “lethal dose.”

The detective, who worked in the computer crime investigation until 2012, said he also found email exchanges between two people referring to a package that had been held up at customs but was then successfully delivered.

Earlier today the solicitor for Ms Forde told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that the accused was left 30 per cent of the residue of her late friend’s estate in her will.

Maurice O’Callaghan said that he asked Ms Forde in some detail about her decision to have “a stranger” and non family member as a major beneficiary.

Mr O’Callaghan testified that Ms Forde instructed him that she wanted to leave 30 per cent of the residue of the will, the content of the estate not covered in other specific provisions, to taxi driver Gail O’Rorke (43).

She said she was doing this because “Gail makes her life better”, he said. Ms Forde took her own life in June 2011 using the drug pentobarbital after it was ordered online from Mexico.

O’Rorke of Kilclare Gardens, Tallaght has pleaded not (NOT) guilty 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.

She further denies 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.

Mr O’Callaghan told Remy Farrell SC, prosecuting, that Ms Forde met him in February 2011 and set out her instructions for her will. She told him that she wanted to split the residue of the will, after a number of specific amounts to other beneficiaries, between her niece Catriona and the accused.

The solicitor said he was aware of Ms Forde’s medical condition of multiple sclerosis. He said at their first meeting he dealt “in great detail” with the issue of whether any pressure was being applied to Ms Forde by Ms O’Rorke.

He said he was absolutely satisfied that there was no undue influence on his client. He said he was 100 per cent satisfied that Ms Forde was of sound mind and was in full capacity to make out her will.

Mr O’Callaghan told Dermott McGuinness SC, defending, that he asked Ms Forde about not leaving anything to her siblings and she hold him that she was including people in her will “who made her life better”.

He told Mr McGuinness that Ms Forde told him that the acid test for her was that Gail had been a fantastic friend and carer who had done unenviable tasks for her.

He said she told him that since a severe car crash in 2008 Gail has washed her feet and put cream on them. He said she told him that nobody could have done more for her.

He told the court: “She said Gail wasn’t pointing a gun to her head, wasn’t applying pressure. She said Gail makes her life better”.

The jury heard Bernadette felt she’d no future and that it was Gail who was going to hold her hand when she travelled to the Dignitas euthanasia clinic in Switzerland.

Reading from his notes of the meeting with Ms Forde he stated: “She started out as a cleaner then became a wonderful friend”.

Assisted suicide trial: Nephew had ‘no problem’ helping her travel to euthanasia clinic

21st Apr, 2015. http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/courts/assisted-suicide-trial-nephew-had-no-problem-helping-her-travel-to-euthanasia-clinic-31161029.html

THE trial of a woman accused of assisting the suicide of her friend has heard that the deceased’s nephew had “no problem” helping her travel to a euthanasia clinic in Switzerland.

Bernard Forde Monaghan told the trial that his aunt, Bernadette Forde (51), who suffered from a severe form of multiple sclerosis, wanted to end her life on her own terms and that nobody could have persuaded her to change her mind.

The witness said he was asked by the accused, Gail O’Rorke to travel with them to Dignitas to help them. He said he presumed he was being asked along to help with heavy lifting such as assisting the wheelchair bound Ms Forde off the plane.

Mr Forde Monaghan said he had no problem helping but that he didn’t know when it was going to happen. The trial heard that the plan to go to Zurich was later interrupted when the travel agent alerted gardaí.

O’Rorke, who was a friend and carer to the deceased, is accused at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court of helping her commit suicide by assisting her in obtaining and taking a lethal drug after the failed attempt to travel to Dignitas.

O’Rorke (43), a taxi driver of Kilclare Gardens, Tallaght has pleaded not guilty 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.

She further denies 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.

Mr Forde Monaghan told prosecuting counsel Remy Farrell SC that his aunt first brought up Dignitas after the death from cancer of her sister Marcena Forde in 2010.

“She wanted to go on her own terms,” he said. “She said she didn’t want people looking after her the way Marcena was looked after. She didn’t want men to be bathing her or dressing her.”

He said he found out that gardaí had disrupted the Zurich trip in a phone call from Gail. The witness agreed that Ms Forde didn’t give up on the idea of ending her life on her terms and that she said “pills might be the way to go.”

Mr Forde Monaghan said his aunt “had made up her mind alright to end her life and do it her own way. I definitely don’t think anybody would have influenced her not too.”

He agreed with Anne Rowland BL, defending, that she was a very “straight up, determined person” who wanted everything in its right place.

He said he saw Ms O’Rorke as a warm, humorous, caring person who confided and had a laugh with Ms Forde.

The trial, which is expected to last about two weeks, continues before Judge Patrick McCartan and a jury of six men and six women.

Earlier, the deceased’s sister, Catherine Campbell, told the court that when Ms Forde told those close to her about her plan to go to Dignitas everyone tried to dissuade her including Ms O’Rorke.

She said she heard Ms O’Rorke talk to Ms Forde about different options such as care homes. She agreed with Dermott McGuinness SC, defending, who put it to her that: “The truth is you were all conscious of her decision and intention and you tried to deflect her from doing it, Gail included.”

Ms Campbell said that Ms O’Rorke had previously written to the Irish Medicines Board asking them to sanction a new MS drug which had come out in the UK and had been in the news. She said Ms Forde would have been “begging” for this.

When counsel informed Ms Campbell that the medicine was eventually sanctioned in July last year she responded: “Oh really? Oh my goodness.”

Ms Campbell said she was relieved when she heard gardaí had intervened in the Zurich trip but that she was disappointed for her sister who was very upset.

The witness said Ms Forde had asked her to travel to Zurich with her but she refused because of a medical condition which made it inadvisable for her to fly.

“I wouldn’t have been willing anyway,” Ms Campbell said. “I wasn’t offering and I wasn’t going. I respected her position but was never happy with it.”

Another sister, Beatrice Forde Monaghan, who is the mother of Bernard, said that Ms Forde never told her about her plans to travel to Zurich and that she found out from Ms Campbell.

Ms Forde Monaghan agreed that she was very religious and wouldn’t have agreed with Ms Forde’s choice. She added that she was a member of a pro-life group

“I would disagree with it but I never voiced it to her,” she said. “You couldn’t really talk to Bernadette like that. She had her own opinions. Being her older sister didn’t make any difference.”

The witness said she learned of the failed Zurich trip when saw an article about it in the Daily Mail after returning from pilgrimage in Lough Derg. She also said that she didn’t know her son had agreed to accompany Ms Forde on the trip until last Monday.

Day three of the trial also heard evidence from Dr Muna Sabah who had been asked to examine Ms Forde’s cause of death.  She said he had died from a lethal dose of pentobarbital, a short acting barbiturate.

Dr Sabah explained that the drug slows down the brain and depresses the central nervous system. She said it is not available here or in the UK and is a highly controlled substance in the US where it is used in capital punishment.

She said pentobarbital is lethal at a concentration of over 40 micrograms per millilitre. The deceased showed a concentration of 53 micrograms per millilitre.

“53 was definitely a lethal concentration,” the doctor commented.

Assisted suicide trial hears last words of dead woman

Mon, Apr 20th, 2015  http://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/courts/circuit-court/assisted-suicide-trial-hears-last-words-of-dead-woman-1.2182334

The jury in the case of a woman accused of helping her friend to take her own life has heard a tape recording of the deceased’s final words before she died.

Bernadette Forde (51), took her life in 2011 having been diagnosed with progressive multiple sclerosis 10 years earlier.

“It has got very, very bad in the last number of months,” the Circuit Criminal Courtheard her recorded voice say.

“I knew that it was getting bad so I had made arrangements to go to Dignitas in Zurich, but my hopes were dashed because the police got to my friend when she went to collect the tickets.”

Last week, Gail O’Rorke (43), of Kilclare Gardens, Tallaght, pleaded not guilty to aiding and abetting the suicide of Ms Forde by helping her to procure and administer a toxic substance between April 20th, 2011 and June 6th, 2011 at a location in Dublin.

Further charges

On Monday morning she entered not guilty pleas to two further charges. She denied she attempted to aid and abet the suicide by means of arranging travel to Zurich,Switzerland for such purpose between March 10th and April 20th, 2011.

She further denied she procured the suicide by attempting to make funeral arrangements for Ms Forde in advance of her death.

“I knew what I needed to do because I just couldn’t live with this any more – my life is shit,” Ms Forde explained.

“I just can’t keep going.

“Hiding it from friends has been difficult and it’s just so unfair that I can’t have any contact or chat to anyone – that I have to be totally alone.”

She explained how she bought the dictaphone because her condition made it unlikely she would be able to write a suicide note.

“I hope that it [the recording] will make my wishes and my intentions clear to anyone who wants to question it afterwards.

“It’s me and totally me, and nobody else.

“It shouldn’t be a question mark because it’s what I wanted – and what else can I do?”

Representing the prosecution, Remy Farrell SC earlier told the jury that under the Criminal Law Suicide Act it is not an offence to for a person to carry out suicide, but it is to help somebody to do it.

Outlining some of the evidence the jury members will hear over the course of the trial – which is expected to take about two weeks – Mr Farrell said Ms Forde’s last words would be played to them.

They would hear her discuss how she felt about taking her own life, how she came to the decision, and her eagerness that nobody else should be implicated.

Evidence reliability

Mr Farrell said the jury would have to consider the reliability of such evidence.

Ms Forde was diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis in 2001, leaving her with the “bleak prospect” of gradually losing mobility.

A subsequent incident in 2008 left her in a wheelchair.

Following the death of her sister from cancer in 2010, she resolved to take her own life. She decided she would contact Dignitas, the Swiss-based euthanasia organisation.

Later, she decided instead to purchase medication online from Mexico which she would take to end her life.

The jury was told Ms O’Rorke played an instrumental role in her plans.

Elizabeth Cremin, who discovered Ms Forde’s body, said she received a phone call from the accused, who was in Kilkenny, on June 6th, 2011.

Ms O’Rorke said she had been trying unsuccessfully to contact Ms Forde and asked Ms Cremin if she could check on her.

Key to apartment

Ms Cremin, who had a key to her apartment in case of emergencies, found her sitting in her wheelchair with her legs on the couch.

“She looked liked she was asleep but by her pallor I realised she wasn’t,” she said.

She contacted gardaí and awaited their arrival.

Ms Cremin said she knew the deceased for three or four years and described her as being very independent and that she was aware of her intention to end her life.

She said the phone call from the accused that day “wasn’t exactly unexpected”.

The trial continues before Judge Patrick McCartan in the Circuit Criminal Court.