Concern remains after assisted suicide bill scrapped on technicality

Concern remains after assisted suicide bill scrapped on technicality

While many were relieved that the Oireachtas Committee on Justice scrapped the Dying with Dignity Bill, a prominent medical ethicist has warned another effort will come soon.

The Committee said in a July 21 statement that the Bill, introduced by People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny, “has serious technical issues in several sections”.

It “reluctantly” decided that the Bill should not progress to Committee Stage, but a Special Oireachtas Committee should be established to progress the matter.

However, Dr Noreen O’Carroll warned that this “is not the time to sit back on our oars”, saying she is concerned that the bill was defeated on “technical and not ethical grounds”.

Dr O’Carroll, a lecturer in medical ethics at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) since 2009, said she expects the issue will “undoubtedly reappear”.

“We need to begin now, because this is, if you like, a battle won, but this is coming back even better drafted, more strongly, more persuasively in terms of the language,” Dr O’Carroll told The Irish Catholic. “It will be much more difficult to dislodge it the next time around.”

If the bill is put before a special committee, Dr O’Carroll expects the process will last up to a year. The bill that would emerge would likely have a “more ‘sophisticated’ formulation” than either Gino Kenny’s bill or John Halligan’s 2015 bill.

Dr O’Carroll added that people need to be educated on the ethical implications of the legislation, but added that in Ireland, the assumption is that “anything ethical comes from the Catholic Church, and we hate the Catholic Church”.

“The people who really are important in this regard are the legislators – the Senators and TDs – and from what I’m picking up from the press release and report is that the primary concern is technical” and not ethical, Dr O’Carroll said.