Living wills Bill debated in Dáil

Fri, Jun 8, 2012, 01:00

A Bill to allow for “living wills” was debated in the Dáil today and passed the second stage.

If enacted, the Bill would allow people to set out the level of treatment they wish to receive should they become terminally ill or incapacitated and unable communicate.

Living wills, also known as advanced healthcare directives, take the control of what happens at the end of life “out of the hands of medical professionals” and “back to patients”, Fine Gael TD Dr Liam Twomey said.

The Advanced Healthcare Decisions Bill has the support of Government and passed the second stage in the Dáil today when introduced by Dr Twomey during private member’s time today. It will next go before the health commitee. 

The Bill would “remove the God-like ability of the doctor to decide what is the best course of action “ and allow a patient “to clearly state whether or not they would like their life to be spared to the nth degree”, he said.

He pointed to the stress and guilt such decisions can cause a patients’ family and to the wide range of medical opinion when dealing in cases such as an elderly Alzheimer’s patient with cancer.

Ignoring the issue allowed it to remain taboo, Dr Twomey said.

Dr Twomey said the Bill's premise was in keeping with the a 2008 Law Reform Commission consultation paper on advanced care directives and the the Irish Hospice Foundation’s end of life report.

Amnesty International has welcomed the introduction of the new Bill but said protections must be extended to cover decisions relating to mental health treatment.

The episodic nature of mental health problems means many people know what works best for them in a time of crisis, Colm O'Gorman executive director of Amnesty International Ireland said.

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