Dying with Dignity Bill

 

Sir, – This is an important week for the 2020 Dying with Dignity Bill as it is considered by the Oireachtas justice committee.

Those of us in Irish Doctors supporting Medical Assistance in Dying (IDsMAiD) recognise the Bill will benefit from an iterative committee process, in devising a conservative, pragmatic, evidence-based piece of socially progressive legislation.

We understand, that as with repeal of the Eighth Amendment and the subsequent introduction of medical termination of pregnancy, the medical profession is profoundly conflicted with itself.

There are vigorous and expressive conscientious objectors and conscientious providers, with groups of medical practitioners strongly adherent to both sides of the argument regarding availability of assisted dying as a choice for people resident in Ireland.

We believe it is important that forceful and articulate expression of risk by medics who are conscientious objectors to assisted dying is accorded appropriate respect, but not disproportionate influence. This is important to bear in mind, as the impact on collective imagination wrought by “worst case” and atypical scenarios is powerful, but essentially misleading.

When systematically consulted, a substantial majority of the public tend to support the regulated introduction of medically assisted dying and this, together with a large amount of supporting scientific evidence from increasing numbers of health systems where this treatment choice is available, should all be to the fore, in determining if this legislation should be progressed.

Failing to progress the Bill would be a major setback in introducing an important treatment choice, likely to be relevant to 2-4 per cent of people who die in Ireland each year, basing this on numbers choosing assisted dying in other jurisdictions. – Yours, etc,

Dr BRENDAN O’SHEA,

Assistant adjuvant professor

in primary care and public

health,

Trinity College Dublin.