Dying with Dignity Bill
Sir, – Sharon Foley of the Irish Hospice Foundation correctly states that there are many facets to dying with dignity, and that everyone “deserves a good death” (Letters, June 4th).
However, the Dying with Dignity Bill is intended to address only one method of dying with dignity, ie a carefully designed, highly regulated, assisted death. The Bill makes no attempt to replace all the aspects of hospice care that the excellent Irish Hospice Foundation and others provide, but it offers an extra option for patients needing end-of-life care, especially those patients for whom even the best hospice care fails to provide the “good death” of which Ms Foley writes. Whereas modern hospice care is wonderful, I have observed that it does occasionally fail to provide the “good death” that we all want for our family, our friends and ourselves.
Perhaps it would have been better to have given the Bill the title “An Alternative Route to Dying with Dignity” Bill or “A Supplementary Method of Dying with Dignity” Bill to remove any misunderstanding that assisted suicide is the only method of achieving death with dignity. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The Irish Hospice Foundation rightly points that the draft Dying with Dignity Bill currently being considered by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice “serves to highlight more questions and concerns about this issue than answer them” and that dying with dignity is much greater than just the assistance to or right of a person to end their life.
The College of Psychiatrists of Ireland has many concerns: first, around the draft Bill itself, and second, around the need for such a Bill at all, and shares the views of the Irish Hospice Foundation that as a society any potential introduction in Ireland of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia, as that is what it is, in advance requires at a minimum robust, protracted, balanced, considered and inclusive debate and discussion, particularly around the unintended “slippery slope” consequences of such a Bill as is evidenced in other jurisdictions.
Our submission to the Joint Oireachtas Committee raises concerns, for one, about the vulnerable groups with mental illness we as psychiatrists support and treat and the unintended consequences of their potential decision for a premature assisted death as they may feel they are a burden on society.
We also noted the inherent contradiction between assisting death and our unremitting efforts as a society to save lives from suicide.
We need improvements to our healthcare service to improve access, service delivery, symptom management and wellbeing in individuals with terminal and non-terminal illness, including greater resources for pain and distress management, as well as end-of-life care.
All this should form part of any consideration of “dying with dignity” or a physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia Bill. – Yours, etc,
Dr CIARAN CLARKE,
and Ethics Committee,
College of Psychiatrists
of Ireland, Dublin 2.