Living and dying with dignity


A chara, – The discussion on end-of-life care is important. The consequences of legislation such as the Dying with Dignity Bill are important. But it is also essential that we discuss the factors which lie behind end-of-life decisions. If I believe that my dying is without dignity, this could arise from various factors.

I may believe that losing my autonomy and being mostly or completely dependent on others, including for the most personal care, is unacceptably undignified. However, even when my autonomy is at a “normal” level, I depend on others in almost every aspect of my life. When I need medical or other assistance for personal care, this paradoxically is having other people show respect for my dignity.

Pain is an integral part of human life. The human body is closely integrated with the world around us, and is affected by wind and rain and viruses. When I experience severe on-going pain, this can be distressing. In an end-of-life situation, hospice care is a blessing, as I have witnessed for family and friends. Hospice home-care must be made fully available to all, in order to live our lives as fully as possible, including nearing the end.

Dementia is better understood today. It does not deprive the person of dignity. Even when a person does not know who I am or who she or he is, I still know that person and will always treat that person with full dignity, remembering the person and the life and relationships the person has lived.

Sadly, sometimes people with illnesses or disabilities or short life-expectancy have been treated with little respect. This must be as unacceptable as discrimination on the basis of nationality or colour or gender or age or ability or economic productiveness.

In dealing with Covid-19, we have turned the country upside down in ways we would never have thought possible. We can do as much to ensure every human being, at every stage of life, knows the support due to our inherent and inalienable dignity. The work being done to address suicide in our society is needed just as much in end-of-life care.

In the matter of “assisted dying”, we must keep in mind the person who provides the assistance. If I provide assistance in gardening or burglary, I share in the responsibility, even if not actively involved or just providing the equipment. The fact that the person I assist has requested my help does not annul that responsibility. If I assist someone at their request to bring about their death, I am still responsible for the death of that person. “Mercy killing” is a contradiction. Any law which might seek to oblige me to provide that assistance is an unjust law. – Is mise,



Dublin 16.