News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 5th May 2013

Assisted suicide:

Terminally-ill Marie Fleming has already decided on the way to end her life


Marie Fleming regrets not ending her life at a time when she was able to do it herself

The terminally-ill multiple sclerosis woman sufferer Marie Fleming who this week lost her Supreme Court challenge to the ban on assisted suicide has revealed she has decided on the means she will use to end her life.

Marie Fleming (59) is physically unable to end her own life and wants her partner, Tom Curran, to help her die without fear of prosecution.

Despite the ruling and the prospect of facing a prison sentence, Tom and Marie, speaking today said they have agreed on a way to end her life, when the “time is right”.

Marie had argued that the ban on assisted suicide breached her constitutional rights and discriminated against her as a disabled person.

During an interview at their home in Co Wicklow yesterday, the couple said they have used a book, ‘The Peaceful Pill Handbook’, as a reference for assisted suicide.

They were critical of the Supreme Court for how it handled the judgment.

“The High Court were very, very charismatic and personable but the Supreme Court were totally different. They were more stand-offish,” said Marie, who was too ill to attend the court last Monday to hear the decision herself.

Tom said it could have been “giving a judgment on the house that Sean Quinn was fighting NAMA about” instead of a judgment on someone’s life.


“There seemed to be no feeling. It was not someone’s life the judgment was being made about. It was made purely on a legal argument. I live with this illness every day, every minute of every day, and to be dismissed . . . I have been very down since the judgment.”

Marie said that while she had registered with the assisted suicide clinic Dignitas in Switzerland more than five years ago, she changed her mind.

One of the reasons was when her son pointed out to her that the Dignitas facility was a blue hut in the middle of an industrial estate. “He said I would be looking out on bloody trucks. So we decided against it. We would do it in our own home,” she said.

Tom said he has researched a methodology to help Marie end her life. He is now the Europe co-ordinator for Exit International, providing information on assisted suicide.

The couple did not want to reveal which option they have chosen. However, Tom said the simplest way is to use an “exit” bag and to immerse the person in an oxygen-free environment.

“(It’s) very quick and pain-ree. Within three breaths the person loses consciousness. It’s like going to sleep and then within 15 or 20 minutes they are dead as they are deprived of oxygen.”

Marie says she will decide to go if she gets locked-in syndrome, or if she can’t talk or listen or see.

In a further statement, released last night, Marie said: “While I feel let down by the judgment, it is more upsetting that it feels I wasn’t listened to.

“It seems the State does not want me to die but all the time chips away at my quality of life, one cutback after another . . . the latest being the mobility scheme and the carbon tax increasing heating and transport costs.

“Shame on Enda Kenny for what he is doing to people like me,” it said.

“If the people who make the decisions won’t listen, I would ask them to come and live my life for just one day or even one hour and tell me how enthusiastic they are about living.

“It seems they will not give me permission to die but they will not help me live either.

“I tolerate a lot and all I ask is to be allowed to make my decision about death and to be given the help that I need to carry out my wishes.

“Through no fault of my own I cannot carry out my wishes myself. I am not asking to find someone to help me, I have that person already.

“All I ask is that he can carry out my wishes without getting himself into trouble. Is that too much to ask?”

Michael D Higgins says I don’t think I am interfering in politics


Rabbitte and Varadkar back Higgins, Enda and Higgins meet over Europe

President Michael Higgins yesterday defended himself against accusations that he had gone beyond the constitutional remit of his office in his criticism of the austerity policy imposed by Europe.

“I don’t think there is a speech I have given in the last three months that has the word austerity in it,” the President said in Cork yesterday.

Yesterday, two senior government ministers came out to support the President in his stance against austerity.

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte blasted the “lethargic response” of the European Central Bank and other European institutions while Transport MinisterLeo Varadkar also warned that austerity was not the solution.

The statements were made in the aftermath of the second politically charged critique in a month by the President on the social and moral consequences of austerity.

President Higgins sought to defend his statements by defining the role of President in relation to Government: “I don’t ever interfere on a matter of legislation . . . I don’t see any reason as to why anyone should be confused about it at all.”

He revealed that he has two-hour meetings every six weeks with the Taoiseach during which they discuss “the present state of Europe”.

“The Government does what the Government does . . . I have a very positive relationship under Article 28 of the Constitution with the Taoiseach.

“I don’t understand some of the conjecture that people have because I have to say our meetings are very positive.

“Our offices are independent. I am the President and my responsibility is to try and address the issues generally.

“On the Government’s side the present Taoiseach is in fact responsible for constructing the legislation of the day.”

In the Dail last week, Opposition attempts to raise the issue of President Higgins’s statements were ruled out of order. “No, no, no, we do not go there with the President,” the Ceann Comhairle told Mary Lou McDonald ofSinn Fein.

The President added: “I have great confidence in my ability to put my own positions. I am really taking seriously the oath I took when I entered office, to use my abilities for the welfare of the people of Ireland.”

Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation say’s shortage of Midwifes  ‘is very UNSAFE’

The INMO has branded the shortage of midwives in Ireland as unsafe for mothers and newborns.

The organisation is calling for an independent commission to be set up to address the staffing levels in maternity hospitals.

The call comes to mark the International Day of the Midwife.
General secretary of the INMO, Liam Doran, said that the problems encountered because of staff shortages are completely avoidable.

“We also believe it’s incurring additional costs because midwife-led services are the preferred option for women who have problem-free pregnancy and so on,” he said.

“We’re not meeting that need at the moment, that’s because we have a shortage of midwives, and we want this independently-chaired commission set up to identify the extent of the problem and certaintly put reccommendations to Government to have it solved on this International Day of the Midwife.”

Smoking may pose a bigger risk to women than men


Smoking may pose a bigger health threat to women than men, say researchers. Women who smoke have a higher risk of cancer than men, Norwegian investigators found.

They looked at the medical records of 600,000 patients and discovered the bowel cancer risk linked to smoking was twice as high in women than men.

Female smokers had a 19% increased risk of the disease while male smokers had a 9% increased risk,

For men and women, the evidence is clear – being a non-smoker means you’re less likely to develop cancer, heart disease, lung disease and many other serious illnesses”

In the study, nearly 4,000 of the participants developed bowel cancer. Women who started smoking when they were 16 or younger and those who had smoked for decades were at substantially increased risk of bowel cancer.

Biologically vulnerable? :The University of Tromso team who carried out the research say it is the first study to show women who smoke less than men still get more colon cancer.

But they were unable to take into account other factors that might affect the risk of this type of cancer, such as alcohol and diet.

The findings suggest that women may be biologically more vulnerable to the toxic effects of tobacco smoke.

Experts already know that women who start smoking increase their risk of a heart attack by more than men who take up the habit, although it is not clear why.

A new piece of research published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism suggests a possible explanation.

A team from the University of Western Australia found teenaged girls exposed to passive smoking had lower levels of the “good” form of cholesterol that reduces heart disease risk.

Second-hand smoke: Second-hand smoke did not appear to have the same impact on teenage boys, however.

The study looked at more than 1,000 adolescents living in Perth, Australia.

Lead researcher Chi Le-Ha said: “Considering cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in women in the Western world, this is a serious concern.”

Around one in every five men and women in the UK is a smoker.

Although smoking rates have been falling among both sexes, the decline has been less rapid in women.

In England in 2010, more than a quarter of secondary school pupils had tried smoking at least once and 5% were regular smokers. Girls were more likely to smoke than boys – 9% of girls had smoked in the last week compared with 6% of boys.

Quitting smoking cuts your risk of many diseases, including cancer.

According to research in more than one million women, those who give up smoking by the age of 30 will almost completely avoid the risks of dying early from tobacco-related diseases.

Sarah Williams of Cancer Research UK said: “It’s well established that smoking causes at least 14 different types of cancer, including bowel cancer.

“For men and women, the evidence is clear – being a non-smoker means you’re less likely to develop cancer, heart disease, lung disease and many other serious illnesses.”

June Davison, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said more research was needed to understand the effects of second-hand smoke.

Woman admitted to Hospital after fall down a mine-shaft in Co Sligo


A woman has been taken to hospital after falling down a mineshaft like the one above right in Co Sligo, She fell from the Glencarbury mine while out walking.

The woman was waist deep in water but is not thought to have been seriously injured. She was taken to Sligo General Hospital for treatment.

The Sligo Mountain Rescue Team and Coastguard helicopter were involved in the rescue.

A spokesman for the Irish Coastguard said it received the call for help at about 2.50pm.

“They were requesting assistance with the transfer of equipment and personnel,” he said.

Meanwhile, in north Antrim a 66-year-old woman is being treated for leg injuries after falling from a cliff at a tourist attraction.

The Sligo Coastguard helicopter was called out to help the stricken woman who had fallen into an inaccessible area off the coast of Carrick-a-Rede.

She was airlifted to safety at about 3 pm today.

Eating with parents helps toddlers to remain eating healthy, research finds


Sitting down to the same meals as Mum and Dad is found to have a bigger impact on health than class or snacking habits.

Children who eat the same meals as their parents are far more likely to have healthy diets than those who do not, according to research.

Eating the same food had a greater impact on a young child’s health than any other factor, including social background and snacking between meals.

Dr Valeria Skafida, at the Centre for Population Health Sciences at Edinburgh University, also found that firstborn children had healthier diets than second or third born. In light of the study, which looked at 2,000 five-year-olds, the paper recommends that government advice to families should be kept simple to help establish good eating habits early.

Skafida said Britain was almost alone in Europe in “dumbing down” with children’s meals in restaurants and at home, rather than encouraging them to eat what the adults were eating.

There is growing concern about the rise of ready meals marketed at young children, and about children being overfed with foods that often lack key nutrients.

“If children were eating what their parents eat – and, like the French, eating round the table – then we wouldn’t have the iron deficiency problem we have,” said Dr Colin Michie, chair of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s nutrition committee. He said children could have problems with deficiencies in iron, vitamin D and to a lesser extent zinc, and he was seeing lots of children with eating difficulties who were fed “sitting alone” by busy parents, and parents who made two or three different meals for adults and faddy children.

“If they sat together there are less chances of the kids manipulating the parent over food, as is quite common. Eating the same food as the adults is about behaviour, children copying the behaviour of the adults. There are particular issues in different parts of the population. For example, the Asian adult diet is a brilliant diet, yet many Asian mothers will fill their children full of milk, meaning they eat less because they are full of milk, which is great stuff but designed for baby cows and has absolutely no iron.

“Then we have the population covering themselves with UVB blockers very efficiently, and covering up their children. But so much that there’s a serious vitamin D deficiency problem. Especially for black children, whose skins already struggle with the climate here.

“But we have a rising tide of obesity so we are trying hard to reduce energy intakes, and then we have a problem with the overfeeding of a lot of our babies. But where the deficiencies are in the micro nutrients, vitamin D and iron and zinc, these things are deficiencies which build up over time.”

A lack of iron will hinder children’s performance at school, for example.

Parents’ busy lives were reflected in too many ready meals and takeaways in children’s diets, said Judy More, a paediatric dietitian and member of the Infant & Toddler Forum, who is also concerned that a lot of under-fives drink too much milk: “It’s critical up until 12 months, but then it’s stopping children eating. Iron is a critical nutrient and children have a poor dietary intake of it.” She said a big advantage of children eating with adults was that they were more likely to be exposed to a wider range of foods, key to keeping their diet balanced and healthy.

“The thing about ready meals is that a child will like one or two and that’s what the parents will buy, so they are confining the children to a narrow range of foods. The whole thing about eating together is that children, especially under-fives, learn a lot by copying. They watch and see adults eating and learn to be less fussy.”

The Infant & Toddler Forum has developed an initiative called Ten Steps for Healthy Toddlers.

Skafida said: “I don’t want to stigmatise parents, they really have a hard time. Children the world over are picky and difficult at certain ages with food, and it becomes a catch-22 that you feed children what they will eat rather than struggle on. Unfortunately, the foods that are generally the most palatable are usually not too high in the lists of food that are the most nutritious.”


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