Vicky calls for right to die with dignity

The late Vicky Phelan

LIMERICK health campaigner Vicky Phelan wants assisted suicide to be made available for people with terminal illness.

In a Virgin Media television interview shortly after it was confirmed that the Dáil would consider a Bill to decriminalise assisted suicide, the mother-of-two said she did not want her family to have to watch her die.

She said the Dáil should “have the balls” to allow people with terminal illness like her to die with dignity in Ireland.

The 46-year-old was one of the whistle-blowers who highlighted the cervical smear scandal after a missed diagnosis led to her being given a late prognosis of terminal cancer.

After a landmark case in which she sued the HSE and the two US laboratories involved in reading the cervical slides, she was awarded €2.5 million and refused to sign a gagging order, shining light on 221 similar missed Irish cases.

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In her television interview on Monday night, Ms Phelan told journalist Ciara Doherty that she believes everyone should have the right to die at home and with dignity.

“In my position, I can’t get on a plane and go to Switzerland or Oregon, because I wouldn’t get there – I’m known.  And, as well as that, I want to die in my own country.  I don’t want my poor family to have to travel over and come back with a coffin.”

She said she would prefer that her young children’s memories “are not me dying.”

It was announced this week that the Dáil will again debate a bill first introduced by former Independent Alliance TD and Minister John Halligan.

It was overtaken by the dissolution of the Government but now the ‘Dying With Dignity’ bill is to be reintroduced by Deputy Gino Kelly (Solidarity People Before Profit) this month.

If passed, the bill would decriminalise assisted suicide in certain circumstances for people with a terminal illness.

Ms Phelan, who credits the drug Pembro with allowing her to live a good life despite her diagnosis, said what breaks her is thinking about the future and knowing she will not see some landmarks in her children’s lives.

Fighting back tears, she said ” I was in Camden with Amelia (her daughter) and she was talking about going to college in London and I realised I’m not going to be here for that. I had to pull back from thinking too far ahead because that’s when I lose it,” she explained.