A private members Bill that is seeking to liberalise the law on euthanasia and assisted suicide in the Republic of Ireland has been severely criticised by Protestants and Roman Catholics alike.
Representatives of the Church of Ireland, Presbyterian Church and the Roman Catholic Church have all demanded that the so-called Dying with Dignity Bill be abandoned.
Last month, around 2,000 doctors, nurses and geriatricians signed a petition calling on the Oireachtas to reject attempts to legalise euthanasia and assisted suicide.
The Presbyterian Church in Ireland warned the Oireachtas Committee on Justice: “Should the Bill become law, it would legalise physician assisted suicide for anyone living on the island of Ireland.”
Its Council for Public Affairs panel concluded: “Improving the care needs of those approaching the end of life in a consistent manner, to help them to live as well as possible to the end of their lives, ought to be the focus.
“The true measure of any society is how it treats its most vulnerable and the Bill would increase, not lessen, their vulnerability. On that ground alone, the Bill should not proceed.”
Representatives for the Church of Ireland told the Committee that the Bill would not only change the law to allow assisted suicide, but also introduce the “legalising of euthanasia, that is the killing of another human being.”
Roman Catholic bishops also argued that “good palliative care”, rather than an assault on assisted suicide protections, offers “terminally ill people the best possibility of achieving ‘a dignified and peaceful end of life’”.
In their submission they said: “While palliative care already provides assistance to those who are dying, this Bill provides for the medical endorsement and facilitation of suicide.
“Legislators need to honestly recognise the difference and call things by their proper name.”
The Bishops added: “The Bill would coerce the consciences of objecting healthcare providers in order to facilitate something they know to be gravely immoral and utterly incompatible with their vocation to heal.”
‘Unique inherent value’
The Christian Institute’s Northern Ireland Officer, Callum Webster, has called the Bill “dangerous and chilling”.
He said recently: “Every human life has a unique inherent value, no matter how old, ill or disabled that person might be. And they retain that value no matter how reliant on others they may become.
“Legalising assisted suicide or euthanasia would mean that, for the first time, Irish law accepts that some people’s lives no longer have any inherent value, and that it is in fact acceptable or even good to give them lethal medication.
“Once the boundary marker of assisted suicide or euthanasia has been crossed, it is not only difficult to go back, it is much easier to make further changes. If this Bill is passed, it will not be long before activists seek to amend and expand it.”