“It’s time the State recognised that we all have a right to die how we want”

A former nun suffering from MS thinks that the method and timing of her death should be entirely up to her

Kate Tobin - a former nun - spent most of her adult life in England, where she joined a French order, the Daughters of Providence when she was 20 years old.

She still felt called to the religious life and joined the Augustinian Sisters, a nursing order, in Liverpool, but left the order in 1999 when they made her choose between nursing, which she was training in, and another role.

Five years ago, aged 46, Kate started showing symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS). Following her diagnosis, she moved to Clonroche.

"It makes me feel useless"

Initially, her diagnosis was relapsing remitting MS, but the disease became progressive within the last 18 months.

"It takes me an hour and a half to get dressed," she told Kieran Cuddihy for Newstalk Breakfast.

She estimates that she takes 46 tablets a day, with an allowance for extra painkillers if she requires them.

"It makes me feel useless because the furthest I can walk is 100 yards."

"You have to respect the patient's choice"

As her progression became so severe, she began to think about her death, now firmly believing how she dies should be completely up to her.

She has drawn up a provisional plan for her death - she has severe heart problems caused by her MS which have previously resulted in her hospitalisation. If that happens again, or if other complications arise, she doesn’t want any invasive treatment.

Because of her heart condition, Kate is confident she’ll be hospitalized and that will bring about her death.

But Kate believes very strongly that if she didn’t have this heart condition, and if she was facing becoming trapped in her body at home, she thinks that Ireland should have a facility or mechanism whereby she can be assisted in taking her own life.

Ethical debate

A person's right to die, as well as assisted suicide, raises an ethical debate. As a former nun, Kate said:

"I don't think when I get to the pearly gates that Gabriel the Archangel or God are going to say 'hey Kate, you're a bit early, you'll have to wait to come in.' I think he will say, 'Welcome home my child, you have suffered enough'."

Kate is embarking on a fundraising drive for MS Ireland and Dyslexia Association of Ireland. in which she is aiming to read 500 books in calendar year. Donation details can be found on both of their websites.