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LAW10060:The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Assisted Dying produced a Report in March 2024:Constitutional Law: Fundamental Rights, Assignment, UCD, Ireland

University University College Dublin (UCD)
Subject LAW10060: Constitutional Law: Fundamental Rights

Essay Question:

The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Assisted Dying produced a Report in March 2024 recommending that the Government introduce legislation to allow for assisted dying in certain circumstances.

The Supreme Court in Fleming v Ireland [2013] IESC 19 rejected that there existed a constitutional right to die or to end one’s life. The Supreme Court held that it had a constitutional obligation to vindicate Marie Fleming’s right to life.

There was a balance to be struck between Ms Fleming’s right to life and her autonomy and
dignity. Ms Fleming argued that protection of her autonomy and dignity supported her claim to have assistance in ending her own life. The Supreme Court held that autonomy and dignity were constitutional values, not constitutional rights.

These values, the Court held, found expression in various constitutional rights, and did not extend to a right of assisted suicide.

The Court also rejected Ms Fleming’s argument that the Criminal Law (Suicide) Act 1993 was incompatible with the Constitution on the grounds of equality.

Denham CJ in Fleming said at para 107: “It may well be, therefore, that as part of its obligation to vindicate life, the State is required to seek to discourage suicide generally and to adopt measures designed to that end.

It does not, however, necessarily follow that the State has an obligation to use all of the means at its disposal to seek to prevent persons in a position such as that of [Marie Fleming] from bringing her own life to an end”. The Court, in an obiter comment, left it open to the Oireachtas to legislate for assisted dying atpara 108.

Critically discuss the High Court and Supreme Court decisions in Fleming, commenting specifically on:
i) how the guarantee of equality was understood to be satisfied in the application of the Criminal Law (Suicide) Act 1993,
ii) the Court’s designation of autonomy and dignity as constitutional values and the effect this had on the decision,
iii) and on the Court’s view of the State’s obligation to uphold and protect the right to life. You should refer to previous case law in considering how the courts have addressed each of these constitutional rights and compare to the court’s treatment of them in Fleming.

If legislation were to be introduced following the Joint Oireachtas Committee’s recommendations, do you think that this would be compatible with the right to life in Article40.3.2? Explain your reasons for your answer.

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