Academic complains to President

 

THE AMERICAN-born academic whose attempt to deliver a lecture about euthanasia was disrupted by protesters in Cork on Thursday night has written to President Mary McAleese complaining about his treatment.

Prof Len Doyal, emeritus professor of medical ethics at Queen Mary, University of London, and a proponent of euthanasia, was also critical of the Garda in his letter.

He had been due to address an audience at Cork University Hospital as part of a lecture series organised by the hospital’s ethics committee last week.

The talk was cancelled after protesters voiced their opposition and Prof Doyal was escorted from the auditorium by hospital security personnel.

“I fear that this reflects badly on your country and on the officials that stood by and watched the blatant abuse of a Constitution that so many fought and died for,” he said.

“Last Thursday evening in Cork was not tragic for me, but for Ireland.”

In his letter to President McAleese, Prof Doyal said he was “physically prevented by a mob from giving the annual spring lecture”. He said he was called a “Nazi” and a “murderer”.

“A large crowd of over 50 people chanted similar obscenities interspersed with loud recitations of the Rosary.”

He also claimed that “the police made no effort to remove this potentially violent mob”.

A Garda spokesman said no complaint had been received by the Garda.

“There was no complaint made either by the speaker or by the hospital authorities concerning the night in question,” he said.

“Gardaí who were there did not consider the incident a breach of the peace.”

Prof Doyal said he regretted to inform Mrs McAleese that the “openness and hospitality” he had experienced on previous visits to Ireland were “entirely absent”.

The professor said he had not expected that opponents of euthanasia present at the lecture would be convinced by his arguments.

However, he had hoped for an exchange of views which did not take place.

“Thus my freedom to speak on a topic I have debated in similar circumstances in other countries was totally denied in Ireland.”

Prof Doyal said he was not advocating “anything other than more understanding and compassion for suffering and terminally-ill patients”. He said he had never suggested that the law should be broken, “only that in my view, there are good arguments that it should be changed”.

After the incident last Thursday night, the Health Service Executive said the lecture had been cancelled in the interests of the safety of those present.

There are no plans to reschedule the lecture.