Hospice group asked to back doctor-assisted suicide


THE IRISH Hospice Foundation has been asked to support “legal doctor-assisted suicide” where requested by terminally ill patients. Its support has also been sought for the creation of an “advance healthcare directive” whereby a person may stipulate in advance the circumstances where he or she would refuse treatment.

The requests have been made by the Humanist Association of Ireland (HAI) in a submission to the Irish Hospice Foundation. The HAI has also requested the provision of secular counsellors by the HSE in the context of hospice care and that hospice staff be made aware of patients’ belief systems “to avoid distressing them with unwanted visits from chaplains . . .”

Where legal doctor-assisted suicide was concerned, the HAI said, “we are aware of concerns regarding terminating the lives of ‘unwanted’ family members but legal doctor-assisted suicide has been seen to be effective with good safeguards against misuse in many countries and has not ‘opened floodgates’ where in place.”

It said “safeguards are necessary in order to ensure the rights of the individual and freedom from prosecution for medical staff; for example, such as having independent medical advice from at least two doctors.”

Where modern medicine was not able to guarantee pain-free end of life treatment it “could be used where clear, unequivocal wishes have been stated,” it said.