A woman in the Republic of Ireland appeared in court this week, charged with assisting in the suicide of her friend.
Believed to be the first case of its kind in the country, Gail O’Rorke, 43, is accused of helping 51-year-old Bernadette Forde to die.
She is charged with ‘aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring’ the suicide of Forde, who had Multiple Sclerosis, between March and June 2011.
Forde was a member of pro-euthanasia organisation Exit International, and according to reports she discussed her death with the group’s controversial leader Philip Nitschke.
Nitschke, known as “Dr Death” after assisting the suicides of his patients in his home country of Australia, is currently under investigation in the UK.
He is also barred from practising as a doctor in Australia.
The Irish case first came to court in 2013, but was postponed until this week – on Tuesday, Judge Patricia Ryan remanded O’Rorke in custody until yesterday.
O’Rorke could face 14 years in prison if she is convicted, as assisted suicide is illegal in Ireland under the Criminal Law (Suicide) Act 1993. The trial is expected to last two weeks.
In 2013, the Supreme Court in Ireland ruled that the country’s constitution does not uphold a right to suicide, or a right to help someone else commit suicide.
The ruling came as former university lecturer Marie Fleming, who also had MS, tried to gain the right to have an assisted suicide through the Irish courts.
Moves to legalise assisted suicide in England and Wales have been heavily criticised by parliamentarians, medical professionals and faith leaders.
Lord Falconer’s Bill would allow patients to obtain lethal drugs if they are thought to have six months or less to live.
But a disabled Peer in the House of Lords described the proposals as a “runaway train”, and said her experience of “progressive deterioration” shows there is “no situation that cannot be improved”.
A survey of members of the Association for Palliative Medicine found that 82 per cent of respondents opposed the Bill.
And over 20 faith leaders, including Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and Dr Shuja Shafi, the Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, warned that better access to end-of-life care should be prioritised instead.