More than 2,700 healthcare professionals have signed an open letter stating that they are “gravely concerned” about the attempt to introduce assisted suicide in Ireland.
Opponents of the bill, including the majority of geriatricians, argue that it stigmatises the elderly, sick and disabled.
The letter came as submissions close for the second stage of the Dying with Dignity Bill introduced by TD Gino Kenny.
One of the open letter’s signatories, geriatrician and consultant physician Dr Kevin McCarroll, told The Irish Catholic said that the bill results from a prejudice against the elderly and disabled.
“There is an endemic prejudice about older people and unfortunately that leads into Euthanasia becoming an option,” he said. “Even families can be that way: ‘My mother’s terrible, I can’t stand to see her this way’. Well, her mother mightn’t feel quite as bad as they do.
“I think it creeps in as an option and in most countries it’s extended beyond the initial indication that they had in law. Then older people will begin to think, am I a burden on my family? It becomes a terrible option for people to start thinking about.”
Dr McCarroll argued that a lack of understanding of palliative care and a “simplistic understanding of dignity” are at the heart of the bill.
“Ultimately, there is a lack of understanding of what can be done in modern medicine in order to palliate them,” he said. ”The real aim should be living with dignity and optimising their care. Some of these people talk about pressure on resources – there shouldn’t be pressure on resources, there should be good quality care.
“People take a very simplistic approach to dignity. Even with dementia, people think it’s terrible like they can’t talk. But that patient may be happy themselves, they may appreciate the simple sensory things they have in life. So, there is a dignity in that,” Dr McCarroll concluded.
Niamh Uí Bhriain of the Life Institute welcomed the “tremendous” letter, saying that medical professionals know the bill is “a danger to vulnerable people”.
“Gino Kenny in putting forward this bill said it was all about relieving unbearable pain and suffering, but if you look at the bill that’s nowhere in it,” Ms Uí Bhriain said.
“My belief is that that’s precisely because it would be contradicted by the medical evidence. It’s a terrible inditement of our society that people are taking their own lives with the help of medical professionals, because they feel a burden to society.”