Scrutiny needed on new Bill

Dear Editor, I wish to draw the attention of your readers to the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Bill 2013. First stage and second stage of the Bill have been completed by the Dáil, and it has been referred to Select Committee.

If passed, the Bill will allow the representative of a person lacking capacity to get permission from the High Court to have the person lacking capacity non-therapeutically sterilised, and to have so-called 'artificial' life-sustaining treatment of that person discontinued [see section 4(2), (a), (b), and section 25].

Regarding the permission to discontinue so-called 'artificial' life-sustaining treatment, obviously there are times when such treatment is no longer achieving its purpose, but it seems to me that the permission in the Bill is wide open to serious abuse. Many readers will have heard the term 'persistent/permanent vegetative state'. In recent years, several persons diagnosed as being in that state, have recovered. Is 'brain death' not a better guide to action in the circumstances?

As citizens we need to be very watchful of proposed legislation such as this Bill. In countries where 'a little bit' of voluntary euthanasia has been introduced, we have seen how a 'little bit' has become 'a lot', and 'voluntary' has become 'involuntary'. In England, of all places, they are having second thoughts on end-of-life treatments such as the Liverpool Care Pathway. It was reported recently that, by this summer in Belgium, it will be legal to euthanise children.

The Government should withdraw the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Bill 2013, and not re-introduce it until all the ethical difficulties are resolved in a way that respects the human rights of everyone involved. The Bill itself is 109 pages long, and the Explanatory Memorandum is 31 pages long. First stage and second stage were dealt with in two days approximately. What kind of close scrutiny is that? 

Yours etc.,

Séamas de Barra,


Dublin 14.