Church leaders: ‘RoI must not undermine sanctity of life by legalising assisted suicide’

Church leaders from different denominations have warned the Irish Parliament that legalising assisted suicide would be “detrimental” to a caring society.

Speaking to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Assisted Dying, ministers from the Church of Ireland, the Methodist Church in Ireland and the Presbyterian Church in Ireland said weakening end-of-life protections would undermine society’s commitment to saving life.

The church leaders urged parliamentarians to strengthen end-of-life care and mental health services to ensure all people are cherished and supported through even the most severe health issues.


Revd Dr Rory Corbett of the Church of Ireland said: “As John Wyatt, the ethicist, has put it, however compassionate our motives may be, when we assist in the killing of another human being we damage our own humanity. We must continue to build on that cohesive and compassionate society.”

“I ask each member the following: if you were to put this into law, would each of you be prepared to carry out the procedure that at the moment you propose to ask doctors to carry out?”

Holding on to Christian ethics: Prof John Wyatt

When the representatives were challenged on the relevance of the Bible’s principles to wider society, Revd Dr Bruce of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland said: “I hope what we have said is more than just doctrinal principles, that it applies to all people everywhere and carries the tone and the tenor of common grace for the common good.”

‘Shared humanity’ damaged

Professor Desmond O’Neill, Chair of the Irish Society of Physicians in Geriatric Medicine, also warned the Committee that assisted suicide “undermines our impetus to care, comfort and support” and damages “our shared humanity”.

He highlighted the example of a quadriplegic woman in Canada, who would have been able to receive help to be killed in 90 days, rather than waiting nine months for disability benefit.

Speaking to the Belfast Newsletter, retired GP Dr John Kyle referenced “shocking relaxations” in requirements to be deemed eligible for assisted suicide, and warned of “consequences” for Northern Ireland if the Republic weakened end-of-life protections.


Prior to appearing before the Oireachtas Committee, Dr Mary Neal of the University of Strathclyde criticised a senator’s “appalling” questioning of a representative from the Pro-Life Campaign.

Dr Neal said that although she disagreed with some of Professor William Binchy’s “substantive positions”, witnessing a “fellow scholar being treated with open contempt by Snr Lynn Ruane was appalling”.

Writing to the Committee, Dr Neal said the incident made her question “why any expert would participate in a process in which they are likely to be harangued, interrupted and forced to misrepresent their positions”.

The Committee is due to make recommendations on the issue by March 2024.

Also see:

Psychiatrist: ‘Canada must stop the runaway train of euthanasia expansion’

Majority of UK doctors would not facilitate assisted suicide

Canadian mother with stage four cancer pushed to consider euthanasia

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