Wednesday, 8 February 2017


‘I have the right to choose when I go to heaven’

MS sufferer and former nun Kate Tobin says her future is stark – “a slow paralysis, and ultimately my death”

Kate Tobin at her home in Clonroche, Co Wexford: “If I was choosing to die I would expect to be tested by two doctors and a psychiatrist to make sure I’m mentally capable of making that decision.”

Kate Tobin, a 51-year-old former nun who worked in the UK as a palliative care nurse for 10 years, is suffering through the latter states of multiple sclerosis. She wants to be allowed to die.
“When the disease gets worse I want to choose,” she says. “I want to be able to say when to stop my medical care and say, ‘just let me die, I have suffered enough’.”
Tobin, who lives in a specially adapted house in Clonroche, Co Wexford, says her future is stark – “a slow paralysis, needing more help and ultimately my death”.
But she is putting her remaining time to good use. To raise funds for MS Ireland and the Dyslexia Association of Ireland, she is getting people to sponsor her to read books. She is planning to read up to 500 this year, a remarkable total. “It’s about the only thing I can do and I love to read.”
She says while other people had told her she couldn’t decide when she dies, she disagrees.
She says one woman told her she should get on with her life and live it out to the end without complaining. “But they’re not suffering the pain and the degradation I’m going through every day and now that I have progressive MS there’s nothing medically that can be done for me.”
She says she told a local priest of her wish to be allowed choose the moment of her death, and he “sort of said” he agreed with her.
“I am of the belief that when I die, God won’t say, ‘Hey Kate, you’re a bit too early for heaven.’ Instead he will say, ‘Welcome home my child. You have suffered enough.’ That’s how I see my life,” she says.
“I’m suffering my purgatory here on Earth so I believe I have the right to choose when I go to heaven. I have done enough good deeds and suffered enough while I’ve been on Earth to deserve to go to heaven.”
Tobin notes that many other countries allow terminally ill patients the right to die. But she does not believe it is a decision to be taken lightly.
“If I was choosing to die I would expect to be tested by two doctors and a psychiatrist to make sure I’m mentally capable of making that decision. I believe in a process involving two doctors and a psychiatrist and an oncologist,” she said.
She has planned her funeral, details of which her brother in Dublin has locked in his safe.
“Originally, the family wanted me to be buried with my parents, but I have chosen to be buried in a plot on my own because when they come to visit mum and dad’s grave I don’t want them to think of how much I suffered or anything. If they want to come to my grave, they’re coming to my grave and not mum and dad’s,” she said.
She has no fear of death. “I worked in England in a hospice for 10 years, from staff nurse up to sister, so death was an everyday or night occurrence,” she says.
“I know I’m going to die. I’m probably luckier than people that have sudden deaths. I’m now facing the reality that I am going to die. How fast I die is another story and when I was so ill last year I couldn’t wait to die.”
As a former nurse, she knows how death works. “I know the things I don’t want. I don’t want to end up in hospital having to be fed with a peg feed through my stomach and I don’t want a drip. Just so long as they inject me with painkillers to keep me comfortable that’s it. I don’t want anything to prolong my life.”
She spent most of her adult life in England, where she joined a French order, the Daughters of Providence, when she was 20. “I left that order when I was 26 and worked for the Church of England and became a Catholic chaplain for her majesty’s prison service.”
She still felt called to the religious life and joined the Augustinian Sisters, a nursing order, in Liverpool.
“I worked in their nursing home for the three years until I had taken my vows and they thought it would be a nice idea if I trained as a nurse.
“After two years of training they thought I was having such a good time as a student nurse – I don’t quite know how they worked that because it was hard work – and so deciding between the convent, nursing won out. At 33, I qualified as a nurse and it became such a loving career I’m glad I made the decision I did.” Beginning as a staff nurse she ended up as a sister, but then had to return to Ireland to look after her late mother, who was ill.
At 46, Kate began to show the first signs of MS. Originally from Lismore, Co Waterford, she moved to Clonroche last year as her condition worsened. Her MS was diagnosed as progressive last December.
Her financial circumstances are difficult. A laptop, through which she kept in contact with former nursing colleagues in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, was destroyed when she fell during a severe spasm last August. She has been unable to replace it.
Prior to the general election last year, she says she was promised appropriate furniture by the HSE and that she would get more than 14 hours of care a week, but after the election she was told there were insufficient funds for either.
Coffee mornings
She eventually got furniture, which cost ¤3,800, and is paying back ¤35 a week out of her ¤193.50 disability benefit. After her rent is paid, she has little left.
She speaks fondly of her godson and nephew Darragh (11) and niece Clodagh (6), who live with their father in Dublin. She started her book-reading fundraising efforts for both the Dyslexia Association of Ireland and MS Ireland because Darragh is dyslexic.
“I love reading and hope to read between 400 and 500 books in the year,” she said. “People from Wexford have been wonderful in supplying books to me. We’re hoping people will do coffee mornings or cake sales or any other fundraising.”
She estimates she reads “a book and a half a day”. But if she is having a bad night due to spasms and is unable to sleep, she will read through the night.
“One of the carers counted that last year, at my leisure, I read 390 books. There were weeks I didn’t read at all,” she said. “I think this fundraising has given me a new lease of life.”
Anyone wishing to donate to the book-reading fundraiser for the Dyslexia Association of Ireland and MS Ireland can do so via the Ulster Bank in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, account number 1060856; sort code 98-56-90.
‘‘ It’s about the only thing I can do and I love to read


First of all I have to say that my heart goes out to Kate and to anyone else in her position.

Secondly I think that those of us not in her position need to be very careful about judging her and her thoughts on her ability to end her life as she wishes and in the time she wishes.

Personally I agree with people having the right to choose the time and manner of their death - ONCE OF COURSE - it is all done absolutely freely, without either direct or subtle pressure from anyone and in the context of the legal requirements of the person being examined by the proper medical people to establish their state of mind etc.


Well which of us can really speak for God.

I do know however that the Christian God - revealed by Jesus - is a God of INFINITE love, compassion, understanding, mercy, forgiveness etc.

I also know that we believe that Jesus when he was in the world TOOK all our infirmities and sinfulness upon himself.

He SUFFERED to give meaning to all suffering.

I do not think that people like Kate will find any difficulty with the Lord.


At present I feel that I would like to be able to see my life through to the bitter end - IF I am able and to experience, with Christ, my death as I have tried to experience life with him.

That is my HOPE.

I may or may not be able to do it.

Who knows until we get there.


  1. Such a brave lady! Her life and her sufferings all have great value and purpose in God's eyes and she is so aware of that. She will receive the strength she needs and inspire others to deepen their faith. She will also help them to develop their humanity and patience.
    She has taken a clear decision that she wishes at some point in her illness, to refuse further medical assistance and intervention to prolong her existence and that is fine and it is her decision.
    However, that is NOT euthanasia and it is important to realise that there is a very clear distinction.
    Euthanasia occurs when there is a deliberate pro-active ending of life eg by taking a lethal drug by mouth or injection with the sole purpose of ending life that day.
    A doctor may respect a patient's wishes to cease intervention etc but he/she is not free to assist with euthanasia. It is,of course, a fraught, distressing and controversial subject and would be open to abuse in a small number of cases perhaps. But none of us can really sit in judgement until we've walked a mile in that lady's shoes. I found her story very humbling.

  2. That is very sad and the nun has suffered so much. Not allowing the doctors to intervene would not be the same as deliberately ending her life by taking a drug though. Might be "euthanasia" according to the wide dictionary definition but certainly not as far as the more exact medical ethics meaning goes.

  3. Adult patients in the UK already have the legal right to refuse life-prolonging medical treatment. If the patient is mentally competent, doctors must respect his or her decision to forego such treatment...according to advice issued by the General Medical Council.

    1. Hans Kung, a 'Peritus' in Vatican II, appointed by St, John XXIII, and now on his high eighties, suffering from Parkinson's is now an advocate of Euthanasia - but to what point I am not sure.
      Answers should be available from theological sources as to e.g.
      a) Withdraw all medical intervention
      b) Do not resuscitate
      And probably a plethora of other such matters

  4. Theologians today usually find the notion of Jesus having to pay for our sins as in atone for them ridiculous. God can simply forgive. And if God punishes Jesus in our place it follows that we do not really get forgiveness for that is not what he intends to give. There is no evidence that Jesus really was a happy person and his deliberately refusing to hide on the night of his arrest when he guessed he would be crucified and his provocative answers during his trial show that his intention was to be suicidal and bring crucifixion on himself. The negativity and hatred expressed by Jesus towards sin and the world and the Pharisees turned him into a man who badly wanted to escape from this world. My point is that if somebody wants to use Jesus as a case against euthanasia they are doomed to expose themselves as liars.

    1. You are absolutely and theologically correct. The notion of sin atonement is rooted in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament).

      The New Testament writers were largely of Jewish background and would have been grounded, theologically, liturgically and socially, in the tradion of sin atonement. (In fact, the high festival of Yom Kippur...Day of Atonement...was celebrated yearly in Jerusalem.)

      It shouldn't surprise any one, therefore, that the concept of sin atonement is foundational to Christian understanding of the Passion narrative. But it has led to serious misconceptions of God himself: that he needed to be savagely appeased, like some celestial Shylock, before he could be satisfied with humanity. This is most emphatically not my reading of the Passion.

      God sought reconciliation with humanity, but knew that we could never make the first (or any) step in this direction, so vitiated were our wills by moral weakness, that is, by addiction to sin. The quintessence of humanity itself (if you like, its spirit) would have to be freed from these addictions, but this was something that only God's strength could accomplish because of the moral compromise human nature found itself in, both originally and through its bloodline. So God himself, in the person of his son, came to do what we could not. His victory is ours if only we will accept, as the disciples did at Pentecost, the power of Christ's risen spirit to transform us.

      When I think of the Incarnation, the Passion, Death and Ressurrection of Christ, I begin to understand ('begin', I emphasise) Paul's declaration of awe at God's compassion and mercy for humanity: who can understand the depth and the breadth...

    2. MournemanMichael8 February 2017 at 23:47

      I mean no disrespect MC but I have to wonder at the evidence for this. How much of it is conjecture or hypothesis drawn from a framework of understanding highly dependent on handed down traditional beliefs?
      I just find the mental gymnastics required to subscribe to a convoluted belief system at complete variance with intelligence. The latter is either a product of evolution, or a "gift" from an all powerful/seeing God. If a "gift", surely it is given to be used and not suspended to believe counter intuitive non rational information and beliefs based on scraps of ancient papyrus subsequently regurgitated analysed argued over and reinterpreted continuously for ????? years?

    3. MMM, there is perhaps not the kind of evidence that would convince a court of law, but there is evidence. And I have found that evidence in my own life.

      Why do I believe? Truthfully, because I was raised to believe. But if a person wants to have a grown-up faith, at some point in their lives they are going to have to discover Christ for themselves. It's like the Samaritan woman at the well: the townsfolk accepted her testimony about Jesus, but they didn't rely on it. The story goes that they sought out Jesus for themselves, heard him, and then returned to the woman to tell her that they no longer believed in Jesus because of what she had told them, but because of what they had discovered about the man for themselves.

      Why do people sometimes find Christ in periods of suffering? I think its because in these moments they discover their vulberability: that they are not so in control of circumstance as they once thought.

      There is something primordial in people, something instinctive, that has them reach out to a higher power for help. Our pagan ancestors were aware of this, hence the high number of pagan sites of worship spread around these isles.

      I'm sure you, too, have experienced this primordial urge at times. You may have suppressed it, but it is within you nonetheless.

    4. MourneManMichael9 February 2017 at 19:32

      M.C. I too was raised to believe, a "Cradle Catholic" as it is sometimes called. But over time I moved on, not into any 'grown-up' faith but towards seeking understanding of the 'primordial urge' you refer to.
      I now understand that to be humankinds' common intellectual response to the uncertainties, insecurities and realities of our existence. But rather than regress to cradle religious beliefs, for my own part I embrace the reality of our purely fortuitous existence and seek to enjoy and make the best of it according to the Golden Rule.

    5. MMM, is this rule 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you? If it is, and if it results in your treating others kindly (because this is how you wish to be treated), in treating others with respect (because this is how you wish to be treated), in treating others patiently (because this is how you wish to be treated), and so on, then you know God better than many Christians would claim to know him. Not by name perhaps, but more importantly, by nature. It is the nature of God that saves (his spirit), not his name. It is what Paul alludes to when he exclaims: 'It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.' I know you won't accept this, but does it really matter? What matters is that we show this nature in our lives. It is this that makes us spiritual kinsfolk: brothers, if you will. Sure, neither you nor I will always live up to this rule; I sometimes call that failing 'sin'; you? Whatever we call it, we both recognise it as failing, regret it, and resolve to try again, to do better. Therein lies the route to redemption, whether we call it that or not.

    6. Yes, the Golden Rule is as you say. It pre-dates by millenia its incorporation into Christian beliefs.
      I agree with much you say. But your final sentence: I don't feel any need to be "redeemed". For me, such belief/necessity regresses to cradle religious beliefs of our inherent unworthiness and consequent necessity for cleansing redemption. For me, this is simply humankinds' quasi intellectual but purely emotional response and acknowledgement of our dependent frailty in the whole scheme of our inconsequential albeit fortuitous evolution. The mythological shadow of original sin overshadows and pervades much of our thinking, inasmuch as it provides an all too convenient but facile explanation.

  5. I have the right to choose when I go to heaven. Well f..k me sideways. Seriously no one had the right to choose when they get to go to Heaven. I thought this was really funny. What happens if God says, I choose that you stay where you are. I do wonder about the level of self entitlement people feel these days. It is actually hilarious.

    1. About time someone said this. Thank you

    2. Don't be facetious, you bloody idiot. The woman is dying. Her wish is about the MANNER and TIMING of her death, not about whether she can choose to die or not.

      P.S. You aren't worth f*****g sideways (or in any other way).

    3. Not by a gay little angry troll like you darling ��

  6. Good article Pat. It's a call that what ever her decision is I hope and prayer that God will respect it as he is an ever forgiving and Loving God.

    1. @ the 16.37 poster - - I agree with your compassionate viewpoint - - "whatever her decision - -I hope and pray that God will respect it---"
      I also hope that she will find the strength to respect His decision and that she will continue to enjoy her reading and appreciate that her life is precious. To put one's self fully in God's hands is the ultimate act of trust and humility.

    2. What? Do you really believe God WANTS her to suffer her need?

    3. Sorry: I intended to type 'beyond her need'.

    4. She will not suffer beyond her need. Not if she maintains her trust in God Who gave her the gift of life. He knows what her need is. We don't. (Mańkind this side of eternity cannot understand the nature and purpose of suffering - - It has been speculated upon and debated for centuries - - Why should today be any different?)

    5. 19:58, so you believe that suffering itself is efficacious spiritually?

      And is a person's need indicated by the length of time their suffering endures?

    6. 19.58 Perhaps I misunderstand but Suffering and Pain are not a currency to buy our way into God's good books. The victory of the cross was not measured by the amount of pain he suffered but his attitude of mind and trust in the Father. Look at the way we manage animal health and make choices to end their sufferings. The difference with people is that we have heightened awareness and the ability to choose. Ending human life is not something to be taken lightly and is open to abuse in certain cases so where do we go from here

    7. Sean, that was a beautiful, insightful and profound comment.

    8. I agree that we don't understand the reasons behind suffering. It is interesting and can be enlightening to read some of the writings of the greatest saints on the value of suffering, particularly The Cure of Ars, St Teresa of Avila, St Ignatius of Loyola and many others I have read bits from over the years. People of undoubted sanctity might help to give us an insight if we approach with an open mind and some degree of humility. For some people,it is in a time of suffering that they grow closer to God and they stop and evaluate their lives and their relationship with Him and with others. A person who has suffered mentally or physically is not the same afterwards. He bears the mental and physical scars perhaps but he brings a new understanding and empathy to his fellow man and to the needs and sufferings of others. There is a new strength and maturity but best read what the saints who really experienced it have to say - -

    9. 00:57, the saints experienced suffering no more than any one else. They are not special insofar as human suffering goes. They perhaps talked or wrote about it more than others, but that's the only difference between them and us.

      I think the saints may have been too preoccupied with their own pain. The rest of us just get on with life as best we can.

  7. Dying from M S complications isnt any different than drying from most other common ailments, except maybe bone cancer.
    She just needs to put her trust in God.

    1. SO why is Pat blogging about her
      We all going to die
      Only God will decide when and how

    2. I thought her story was interesting,touching and worth considering.

    3. 20:52, does God decide when murder victims will die? If he does, then this makes him complicit in evil.

    4. Murder happens because someone misused his free will to take the life of another( or his own - -) It is a wrong action for precisely the reason that was mentioned already above - - - the ending of a life was taken out of God's timing. So no, He is not complicit in evil.

    5. No, pal. You said: 'Only God will decide when and how (concerning death)' Or were you bullshitt*n'?

    6. Ah magna, the proverbial troll comes out of the cave.

  8. On another subject, I noticed a case in the civil court today at Laganside - A woman vs Rev Hugh Kennedy. Does anyone know the background?

  9. “I’m suffering my purgatory here on Earth so I believe I have the right to choose when I go to heaven. I have done enough good deeds and suffered enough while I’ve been on Earth to deserve to go to heaven.”
    Only a nun would think they know everything about suffering
    I've met a few in my 30 years as a nurse.
    Just get on with your life sister, u not the only person with MS

  10. Magna
    There are many anon posters on here
    Don't jump to conclusions about who posts what
    You assumed wrongly above

    1. My apology. But it would make identification possible if posters would adopt individual usernames.

    2. MourneManMichael9 February 2017 at 19:41

      Certainly agree MC to the benefit of posters using some handle or username.
      Since I originally suggested this way back, thank you to the 330+ of you who have done this so far.
      Admittedly there have been some interesting and valuable comments from "Anons", but it would be useful to be able to ID those valuable ones rather than risk mixing them up with some others, especially when replying or quoting.