A FORMER nun who is living with multiple sclerosis is campaigning for a law to be passed in Ireland which would allow her to die when she chooses.
Kate Tobin, who also previously worked as a nurse, takes 50 tablets a day to manage the debilitating disease that has taken over her life.
The 50-year-old was first diagnosed three years ago.
“I was working as a nurse in Cork and got a chest infection,” she told The Irish Post this week.
“I eventually went to see the doctor in Lismore, Co. Waterford, where I’m from, and he thought I might have had a stroke.
“He wrote me a letter to take to Waterford Regional Hospital and said to take a bag in case they kept me in overnight.
“I ended up spending six weeks there and was diagnosed with MS.”
Ms Tobin’s diagnosis came not long after she had moved home to Ireland – having spent 13 years as a nun in a convent in Liverpool and several years working as a nurse in London.
Waterford TD John Halligan introduced the Dying with Dignity Bill to the Dáil last year and it will be debated when Dáil proceedings resume.
The Bill was compiled by two barristers in Ireland and outlines the strict conditions under which assisted suicide could be permitted.
“It would only be for competent adults over the age of 18 who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness and have less than a year to live,” Mr Halligan told The Irish Post.
“Why should we let these people suffer unrelenting pain when they want to die and they’re going to die anyway?
“I think it’s a human right to be able to decide when and how you will die when you’re living with these illnesses.”
Ms Tobin agrees – as in the short space of time since her MS diagnosis, her health has deteriorated rapidly.
Six months ago, she was able to walk with a stick, but today she uses a walking frame and needs a wheelchair to travel distances longer than 50 yards.
Ms Tobin lives alone in a house that has been kitted out for her needs and has her carers visit daily.
“If they pass the Bill, it will allow me to choose the moment I want to die,” she said.
“One evening I was in the bathroom and I fell over and couldn’t get back up. I covered myself with a towel and I fell asleep on the floor until my carer found me the next morning.
“That’s one example of how this affects me and I don’t want it to get to the stage where it’s even worse than that.
“I want to die with dignity.”
Ms Tobin has kept in close contact with Mr Halligan on the Bill – and also reached
out to acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny, inviting him to spend a day and night living in her home to see how she struggles, in order to push the Bill forward.
“He would see exactly how hard it is and I think that’s what people don’t realise,” she said.
The Dying with Dignity Bill was inspired by the struggle of Marie Fleming, an MS sufferer in Co. Wicklow who passed away in 2013 after having her repeated legal attempts to end her life denied.
It has since passed its first stage, after Mr Halligan introduced it to the Dáil last year, and once the new government is formed, it will be one of the first bills to be debated.
“If you have a beloved household pet who is in insufferable pain, the vet tells you its kinder to euthanize them,” Mr Halligan added.
“You wouldn’t let your pet suffer this much until it died, so why should a person?”