The Oireachtas Justice Committee examining a bill proposing to legalise Assisted Suicide has said the Bill has “serious technical issues” and that it lacked safeguards to protect against undue pressure being put on vulnerable people to avail of assisted dying.
They also said that the “serious flaws” and the fact that the “gravity of such a topic as assisted dying warrants a more thorough examination” meant that the Dying with Dignity Bill 2020 should not proceed to Committee stage.
This means that the bill, proposed by Gino Kenny TD is now likely not to become law, and that the issue will be passed to a Special Oireachtas Committee which will “undertake an examination on the topics raised within and which should report within a specified timeframe.”
Deputy Kenny’s bill had been widely criticised by medical professionals and legal experts as being drafted without safeguards and being seriously flawed. Opponents also pointed to the issue of seriously ill or elderly people being placed under undue pressure to end their own lives.
The Justice Committee said it received more than 1,400 submissions, relating to legal, medical, personal, academic, faith-based and end-of-life or rights-based perspectives on the provisions contained within the bill.
The majority of submissions from all categories of medical stakeholders opposed the bill, the Committee noted.
Nearly all the 36 submissions from stakeholders focusing on mental health issues and palliative care category stated their opposition to the proposed Bill or raised their doubts and concerns over elements contained within the Bill, it found.
“Firstly, several stakeholders objected to the title of the Bill. They believed that it undermines the work of palliative organisations by implying that assisted dying is the better or the only way to have dignity when dying. Thus, they argued that it should be changed to ‘Assisted Dying’ to more accurately reflect the intentions behind the Bill and to represent that palliative care also provides a dignified death,” the committee noted.
“Many stakeholders in this category had experience working in a palliative capacity and believed in the significant benefits of good palliative care and pain management, which they believe provide a sufficient alternative to ease a patient’s suffering from a terminal illness.”
The Committee also noted that “A point that was repeated frequently throughout submissions in all categories was concern that this Bill could result in abuse of the sick and vulnerable, who may perceive themselves to be a burden on their family and feel pressured into opting for assisted dying.”
It reported that “some 324 submissions were sent in from those affiliated with the Life Institute, an organisation which is pro-life, pro-family and believes in the sanctity of human life. They strongly oppose this Bill. Among the points raised in their submissions, additional to the points raised in other categories include: that assisted suicide is strongly resisted by disability rights groups for the clear impact it would have on devaluing the lives of those with disabilities and the risks it poses to them.”