Safety issues led to decision, says HSE

 

A SPEECH by a proponent of euthanasia was called off at Cork University Hospital (CUH) yesterday after protesters voiced their opposition.

Prof Len Doyal, a supporter of euthanasia and emeritus professor of medical ethics at the London School of Medicine and Dentistry and St Bartholomew’s Hospital, was due to address an audience at CUH as part of a lecture series organised by the hospital’s ethics committee.

More than 100 protesters lined the entrance to the hospital and the auditorium as part of a peaceful demonstration against the content of the lecture.

Ethics committee chairman Prof Eamonn Quigley introduced Prof Doyal, but was interrupted by a protester who approached the podium and demanded the lecture be halted, branding the content “murderous”. The lecture was promptly cancelled and Prof Doyal was escorted from the auditorium by hospital security personnel.

Speaking to The Irish Times, last night, Prof Doyal described the experience as “disturbing and distressing”.

He said: “There was no intent on my part to give a lecture and leave, the whole point was that it should be a debate . . . with people free to disagree with me as part of a discussion . . .What is most disturbing is what this means for free speech, which is also upheld in your constitution.”

Health Service Executive (HSE) spokeswoman Christine Eckersley said the lecture was cancelled in the interests of public safety. However, protesters denied there was any threat to public safety.

“The HSE will make us out to be religious zealots but we are not. We are all individual protesters here,” said anti-euthanasia protester Margaret Hurley, from Bishopstown in Cork.

Outside the hospital entrance, protester Moira O’Regan, from Cork, said she was present as a voice for elderly people: “This lecture has nothing to do with providing care for people.”

A spokeswoman for the HSE said: “The hospital fully appreciates that this is a very sensitive topic for many groups and individuals and is aware of the potential for misunderstanding which the title of the lecture may convey, but would again categorically state that CUH does not support euthanasia.”