Conflict abounds on the ‘right to die’

Conflict abounds on the ‘right to die’ Sarah McInerney Photograph: Brian McEvoy

The ‘right to die’ cause is a strange one – we’re all going to die eventually so that right will be vindicated by everybody anyway. It’s not about the freedom, as distinct from the right, to commit suicide as that is no longer illegal, so it’s really about the right to kill, but that’s rather off-putting so campaigners tend to avoid the ‘k’ word, as they conveniently did during the campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

When The Tonight Show (Virgin Media One) on Wednesday of last week discussed the issue, presenter Matt Cooper proposed the classic pro-choice line (“individual right to choose”), presumably what got suicide decriminalised years ago. He said, naively I thought, that it “was not being made compulsory” (sound familiar?). This freedom argument was countered by Peadar Tóibín TD who gave the example of the woman in Holland euthanised forcibly, and similar examples abound in countries that have legalised assisted suicide.

I have no doubt that if it was legalised here, elder abuse would spiral and freedoms would disappear pretty quickly as campaigners and politicians from the elastic band school of ethics would demand that doctors’ freedoms be taken away, that they would be forced to co-operate or refer, would be denigrated as ‘conscientious obstructors’, if they didn’t, wouldn’t get employment unless they were willing to be involved.

David Quinn made the most urgent point, about how the elderly and vulnerable would be under pressure, and he pointed out, giving personal examples from present practice, of how palliative care enables people to die peacefully and with dignity and how it relieves suffering, even if death as a result comes a bit earlier, but he made the clear distinction between that and deliberate killing.

Guest co-presenter Sarah McInerney pointed out the rising numbers availing of assisted suicide in the Netherlands as new norms became accepted and suggested a contradiction between society disapproving of suicide and running mental health campaigns to reduce it, while at the same time considering the legalisation of assisted suicide.

Newly elected TD Malcolm Byrne (FF) disappointed, warning the pro-life side against ‘scaremongering’ and suggesting we deal with the issue via yet another Citizens’ Assembly (can-kicking, buck passing). Has he not got enough confidence in the citizens’ assembly he has just joined?

Like David Quinn, journalist Ian O’Doherty usually has no time for the excesses of political correctness, but he was strongly in favour of assisted suicide from the point of view of human freedom, but again that was more a case for not making suicide illegal, rather than legalising assisted suicide. He criticised how euthanasia in places like Belgium had gone too far, but I thought he seemed blissfully unaware of, or in denial about, the damaging social consequences of a euthanasia regime.


In much more positive territory, The Leap of Faith (RTÉ Radio 1) last Friday night was in Christmas preparation mode. Evelyn Grant of Lyric FM enthused about the music of Christmas as she outlined a huge range of Christmas music events coming up in the lead up to Christmas. She was particularly a fan of ‘O Holy Night’ and ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’.

The programme also featured Sr Colette of the Poor Clares in Nuns’ Island Galway. She spoke to presenter Michael Comyn about their popular prayer book Calm the Soul and how they had recently, with the help of musician and composer Ian Callanan, produced a song and music video of the same name, which is raising funds for the support of persecuted Christian communities around the world.

They don’t have a vow of silence, but are a cloistered order. They keep in touch with the goings on in the outside world and receive messages from the public, intercessions which feed into the prayer lives of the sisters.

On Sunday With Miriam (RTÉ Radio 1), Bro. Kevin of the Capuchin Day Centre in Dublin spoke of prayers he made before the Blessed Sacrament – he said to the Lord that if he was supposed to feed the poor he’d have to have assistance. Since then “fantastic benefactors” and a small amount of government money has kept the service going.

He was particularly saddened to see children homeless, and was critical of the Government for not building sufficient houses. Presenter Miriam O’Callaghan seemed particular moved and inspired, and hopefully the listening public will feel the same and donate leading up to Christmas at


Pick of the Week
Singing the Messiah
BBC2 NI, SUnday, December 15, 9 pm

Composer Neil Martin and his Ards community choir face the challenge of performing Handel’s Messiah in Ulster-Scots.

EWTN, Tuesday, December 17, 9.30 pm

Celebrate Christ’s birth with a special concert of international music by the Vienna Symphonic Orchestra, Singing Academy, and world-famous Vienna Boys Choir.

Film: The Bishop’s Wife
BBC2, Friday, December 20, 3.30pm

(1947) An angel assumes human form to help a bishop repair his marriage and build his dream cathedral.