Legal, ethical and safeguarding considerations around assisted dying to be considered by Dáil committee

Rural Independent TD in line to be chair of special committee which may be convened before Christmas

A special Dáil committee is to be convened to examine the issue of assisted dying, with calls that it should be convened before the Christmas break.

The issue of assisted dying was last examined by the Justice Committee, which examined a Private Members Bill from Solidarity TD Gino Kenny last year.

Following its examination, it recommended a special Oireachtas committee be established to examine the topic, and it is understood that the committee on standing orders and Dáil reform met tonight to approve a paper on the establishment of the committee today.

The terms of reference were agreed, and nine TDs and five senators are to be selected to sit on the committee. Under the D’Hondt system used to decide which parties chair committees, the Rural Independent group will nominate a member who will become chair, if they wish to proceed.

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The committee will consider and make recommendations for legislative and/or policy change in relation to a statutory right to assist a person to end their life and a statutory right to receive such assistance, under the terms of reference agreed.

The consideration may include, but is not limited to, exploring how provision for assisted dying might operate in Ireland, examining safeguards in relation to the provision for assisted dying and an examination of the constitutional, legal and ethical issues in relation to such a provision. It will also consider the identification of a possible unintended consequences of such a provision.

Mr Kenny told The Irish Times on Wednesday evening that the committee should be established before Christmas.

Political parties will now be asked to nominate members, with two members coming from small groups in parliament, sources said. One of them will be a rural independent chair who will become the chair.

The timing of the committee’s establishment will be determined by how quickly parties make appointments to the committee.

Mr Kenny’s bill sought to allow for the provision of assisted dying to qualifying persons - those suffering from a terminal illness - with the aim of allowing them to achieve a dignified and peaceful death.

However, in the course of examining the bill, the Office of Parliamentary Legal Advisors raised serious legal concerns, identifying “ambiguities and serious drafting errors” among other issues.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a political reporter with The Irish Times