Legalising euthanasia and assisted suicide risks turning palliative care doctors into harbingers of death, an Irish parliamentary committee has been warned.
Elma Walsh – whose teenage son benefitted from palliative care until his death from cancer in 2013 – urged the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Assisted Dying not to recommend a change in Ireland’s life-affirming law.
The Donal Walsh #LiveLife Foundation, set up in his memory, seeks to raise funds to tackle teenage suicide and support palliative care provision for young people.
Speaking to the committee, Mrs Walsh explained that “from the time Donal was diagnosed terminal, he lived with dying with the help of his palliative care team”.
Can anyone here guarantee that elderly people won’t be subtly or overtly pressured?
Reflecting on an occasion he appeared on RTE, she said: “He spoke about valuing life and appreciating every minute.
“He contrasted his circumstances of wanting to get every second out of life with those who were taking their lives by suicide and the devastation that caused in families. That conversation has saved many lives.”
Threat to elderly
In light of Donal’s experience of terminal illness, she warned: “For me any introduction of assisted suicide or euthanasia would undermine the trust placed in doctors when it comes to end-of-life care, they would be seen as death givers.”
Society must promote hope, assisted suicide is a statement of no hope. Elma Walsh
“I fear what this committee could set in motion, because if it removes the present legal requirement that doctors do what they can to save lives, the value of life will be significantly reduced.
“Can anyone here guarantee that elderly people won’t be subtly or overtly pressured into taking life ending pills, in a situation where they are living in a family house and the child or grandchild is looking for a house?”
‘Message of hope’
The mum concluded: “Life is whole, from beginning to natural end. It’s valuable no matter our age or circumstances.
“We can all help fight against suicide by turning our back on assisted suicide. Our lives are for sharing to the end.
“If Donal had taken a euthanasia drug either of the two times he was told he would not live for long more, suicides in Ireland would not have dropped. This is a potential that would have been lost.
“All people with long term illness have potential to change and improve the lives of family and friends, as long as they live. That is a message of hope.”