Euthanasia: Forum told changing law could be ‘catastrophic’

Fears that Ireland may soften stance after European Court of Human Rights ruling

Misdiagnoses of terminal illnesses may lead to unnecessary deaths if assisted suicide is legalised in Ireland, a conference has heard.

Anti-euthanasia group Hope Ireland held its inaugural conference at the RDS today, and event organiser Prof Kevin Fitzpatrick told The Irish Times of his fears that a softening of laws around assisted suicide will lead to people being killed without their consent.

“We want to present all the evidence across the world which demonstrates exactly what happens when you legalise for assisted suicide and euthanasia, and the consequences are catastrophic,” he said.

"What you're hearing today is all the evidence about how people get killed using euthanasia laws without their consent.


“There is no such thing as a right to die. It’s a specious argument because death is inevitable to every human being, and you cannot have a right to something that is inevitable.”


The disability rights activist expressed concerns that some clinicians might receive “gratification” from bringing patients’ lives to a premature end.

The conference was attended by about 100 people, and heard from speakers from around the world.

It was held in the wake of Friday’s European Court of Human Rights ruling which permitted the wife and family members of French man Vincent Lambert to remove an intravenous food and water supply which is keeping the car crash victim alive.

The decision has generated speculation that countries which forbid assisted suicide or euthanasia, such as Ireland, may soften their stance in order to adhere to the precedent set by the continent’s most influential judicial body.

‘Not human rights’

“When a sufficient number of European states legislate in a particular way, those countries which do not adopt the same value position are told: ‘sorry, you must’.

"That may be good in terms of European solidarity or bad, it may be politically necessary . . . but whatever it is, it is not human rights," said legal expert Prof William Binchy, whose reservations were echoed by fellow Trinity College academic and elderly rights advocate Prof Des O'Neill.

In a high-profile court case taken in 2013, university lecturer Marie Fleming petitioned the Supreme Court to allow her to take her own life with the aid of her partner Tom Curran.

Ms Fleming argued that her Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis had made her life unbearably painful, and that a denial of her so-called right to die represented a violation of her constitutional rights.

The case was unsuccessful, and she died in December 2013.