Medical Council defends removing ‘deliberate killing of patient’ line from Guide

Medical Council defends removing ‘deliberate killing of patient’ line from Guide

Changes made to the Irish Medical Council’s ethics guide for doctors is not “taking a stance or paving the way” for the introduction of legal euthanasia in Ireland, the council have insisted.

In the 9th edition of the IMC’s Guide to Professional Conduct and Ethics, the sentence “You must not take part in the deliberate killing of a patient” was dropped. It had been in the 8th edition which came out in 2016.

Responding to a query from The Irish Catholic, the Medical Council said that the rationale behind the deletion was to keep the Guide at a “high level in relation to legislation and produce supplementary guidance where necessary rather than amend”.

The IMC stated that the Guide is clear medical professionals must comply and operate within the law. “It is illegal for all individuals, including doctors, to take part in the deliberate killing of a person, or to assist a person to end their own life. The removal of this paragraph was not the Medical Council taking a stance or paving the way for any possible future change, and should not be interpreted this way,” the Medical Council said.

They added that similar changes were made to other topics that appear in the 8th Edition but are not included in the 9th edition. The council said: “The removal of these sections does not diminish the law that applies in these circumstances, and such amendments are not unusual from edition to edition. With the evolving nature of the practise of medicine and delivery of healthcare in Ireland, the Council will be regularly reviewing what additional support and/or guidance medical practitioners may require to supplement the guidance already available in the Guide, and to align with national health policy developments.”

This comes after Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin, chairperson of the bishops’ Council for Life, wrote to the Medical Council raising concern about the sentence’s absence from the Guide.

He said: “I find myself wondering if this is an oversight, or is it the case that the Medical Council has now decided that it is acceptable for doctors to take part in the deliberate killing of a patient? Even if assisted suicide were to be legalised, for example, that of itself would never make the killing of patients ethical.”

Regarding the sections on Assisted Human Reproduction (47) and Abortion (48), which were in the 8th edition of the guide and disappeared from the 9th edition, Bishop Doran said: “This would seem to suggest that the Medical Council does not see these very significant areas of activity as involving any ethical questions or risks. Is this simply because the law in these areas has changed. Have actions which were previously unethical and quite simply ‘bad medicine’ suddenly become ethical because they are now legal.”

After receiving no acknowledgement or response from the Medical Council on the issues raised, Bishop Doran released a public statement. The Medical Council said they will respond to the bishop in “due course”.