Dying with Dignity Bill

 

Sir, – The euthanasia Bill currently before the Dáil is a deadly piece of legislation which should be rejected.

The Bill would permit assisted suicide and euthanasia for people said to be “terminally ill”.

The broad definition of “terminal illness” in the Bill would cover many people living with chronic illnesses and disabilities who could live for years.

Section 10, which covers capacity, states that, “The fact that a person is able to retain the information relevant to a decision for a short period only does not prevent him or her from being regarded as having the capacity to make the decision.” Therefore, if this Bill is enacted, it would be completely legal for a vulnerable person with early-stage dementia to end their lives after receiving their diagnosis.

On the conscientious objection rights of medical professionals, section 13 of the Bill clearly demands that doctors who are unwilling to euthanise their patients are required to ensure any patient who makes such a request of them is directed to a doctor willing to do it. This section effectively nullifies the conscience rights of all medical professionals.

The Bill should be rejected in its entirety because, if passed, it will allow anyone who has a terminal illness to be euthanised. The person with this illness does not need to be near the end of his or her life to qualify for euthanasia or assisted suicide. For example, it would be completely legal for a person with early-stage dementia, or early-stage heart disease to demand that their doctor end their life. If a doctor has an ethical objection to deliberately killing a patient, the doctor must refer the patient to another doctor willing to do so.

Finally, it doesn’t make much sense to be working hard as a nation to reduce our suicide rates while legalising assisted suicide and euthanasia. Instead of legalising euthanasia, the Dáil should vote to put more resources into our health service, particularly in regard to supporting palliative care. – Yours, etc,

NICOLA DAVERON,

Chairwoman,

Galway For Life,

Galway.

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole makes an insightful observation about how his father, once he achieved a sense of control over the timing of his death, ceased to dwell on it (“My father wanted to die and I promised to help him”, Opinion & Analysis, September 29th).

Perhaps due to the taboo around discussing it, with many otherwise knowledgeable people reach old age with remarkably little knowledge of death and its practicalities.

There are several facts and paradoxes about the topic which ought to be better known, and which may offer reassurance to some.

When asked, the vast majority of people would ultimately prefer to die at home, and until about 1900 this was the normal outcome.

It is rarely the fact nowadays, however, with about 75 per cent of people dying in hospitals or other medical facilities.

While they are rightly commended for their work in the area, only about 8 per cent of us die in hospice care.

Conversely, 48 per cent of people die in acute hospitals. More than one in five of them die within intensive care units, most commonly following the exhaustion of all possible therapeutic options.

This usually involves the limitation or withdrawal of life support, typically with the provision of potent pain-relieving drugs and sedation, to assuage suffering.

This is discussed in detail in the Ethicus study, an analysis of end-of-life care practices in European intensive-care units, which is available online.

While it describes the commonest approaches in a large variety of countries, including Ireland, probably the most striking aspect of the study is how similar the results are, even between culturally diverse nations.

While death is proverbially inevitable, suffering is not necessarily so.

Humanity is usually brought to bear on unsurvivable situations, and comfort achieved. – Yours, etc,

BRIAN O’BRIEN,

Kinsale,

Co Cork.

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole sets out very eloquently and movingly the dilemma he found himself in when his sick father indicated that he wanted to die (“My father wanted to die and I promised to help him”, Opinion & Analysis, September 29th).

Such cases tug at our heartstrings and can lead us to believe that there is only one way out of an existential crisis. Your columnist, paradoxically, showed that he found a resolution, unexpected as it was, to his father’s situation.

An emotional climate surrounding such cases easily obscures the fact that they are not all the same. This is particularly the case with end-of-life situations. There is an essential difference between not acting to prolong the life of a dying person and acting to end that life.

Death is final. There is no possibility of undoing a decision once implemented. Prof Desmond O’Neill’s article (“Let’s talk about assisted living, not assisted dying”, Opinion & Analysis, September 28th), recounting a tragic case where a woman was forcibly prevented from withdrawing an earlier decision to end her life, deserves reflection.

As in moral dilemmas in general, reason rather than emotion is a surer guide. A crucial product of a rational approach is the acknowledgment and assessment that actions have consequences and that not all of these may be immediately obvious, especially to someone in a crisis. – Yours, etc,

TOM GILLEN,

Dundrum, Dublin 14 .