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Gardai may exhume body of right-to-die campaigner Marie Fleming

Tom Curran and Marie Fleming
Tom Curran and Marie Fleming

THE FAMILY of ‘right to die’ campaigner Marie Fleming fear the nightmare prospect of her remains being exhumed as Gardaí continue an inquiry into the circumstances of her death.

The Sunday World revealed in June last year how Gardaí commenced an investigation into terminally ill Marie’s death – after partner Tom Curran disclosed in an interview that he had “helped her die”.

If convicted of assisting Marie to die Tom faces a sentence of up to 14 years in prison.

Sources close to Tom this week confirmed the Garda investigation is continuing and that exhumation has now been mentioned.

Speaking with the Sunday World, a source close to Tom described the investigation as “deeply distressing”.

“They’ve interviewed a large number of people and recently we have heard the possibility of exhumation, which would be simply monstrous,” they said.

“The fact is that Marie took great comfort from the fact the High Court indicated the DPP would exercise discretion in the event Gardaí ever launched a probe into her death.”

In the 2016 interview which sparked the investigation, Tom said he was compelled to admit playing a role in her death as to do otherwise would mean her death had been in vain.

“It had to come out, otherwise, to a certain extent, what Marie fought for is a waste,” he said.

Marie was buried in the cemetery near Holy Trinity Church in Castlemacadam, following her death at the couple’s home near Arklow in December 2013.

The Sunday World understands Arklow gardaí have interviewed a large number of Marie’s contemporaries and medical staff who assisted in her care.

Marie, who was in the final stages of multiple sclerosis when she died, went to court to be lawfully assisted to have a peaceful death at a time of her choosing without putting loved ones who helped her at risk of prosecution.

In 2013, both the High Court and the Supreme Court rejected her challenge to the Criminal Law (Suicide) Act of 1993, which decriminalised suicide but made it a criminal offence to assist another person to take their own life.

Fleming had argued that, as a severely disabled person unable to take her own life unaided, the law disproportionately infringed her personal autonomy rights under the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Despite the court’s ruling against her for an assisted suicide, the High Court’s President Nicholas Kearns praised her courage and described Marie as “the most remarkable witness which any member of this Court has ever been privileged to encounter.” 

He suggested the DPP was likely to exercise discretion in a humane fashion in deciding whether to prosecute should Tom assist in Marie’s death.

The source close to Tom told the Sunday World that Marie believed her family would be safe from prosecution.

“She believed the court had recognised the uniqueness of her situation and that in the event her death was assisted then any person who had helped would not be at risk of prosecution.

“Tom has heard the possibility of exhumation mentioned but hopes it will not come to that.

“Ultimately the decision regarding prosecution is one that will have to be made by the DPP.”