RoI assisted suicide proposals ‘naïve and out of touch’

Oireachtas committee recommendations to ‘institutionalise’ assisted suicide have been branded ‘misguided and unwanted’.

Writing for The Irish Times, columnist Breda O’Brien and consultant geriatrician Professor Desmond O’Neill accused the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Assisted Dying of ignoring expert and public opinion.

If the proposals are adopted by the Government, adult Irish citizens deemed to be seriously suffering from a terminal illness and with less than six months to live – or twelve months for neurodegenerative conditions – would be allowed to receive help to kill themselves.


O’Brien said the Committee’s support for assisted suicide had come in “the teeth of a process” dominated by anti-suicide medics and disability advocates.

In a pointed reference to last month’s referendum, she asked: “Does this remind you of recent events involving politicians ploughing ahead in happy obliviousness to dissenting voices?”

Highlighting naïvety in the recommendations, the columnist said: “Belgium, the Netherlands and Canada have seen expansion after expansion of the grounds for assisted suicide and euthanasia.

“Yet we retain the fond delusion that there is something about the Irish that means we will not slither down any slippery slopes because, well, we are Irish.”

Offering euthanasia says, directly or indirectly, that some lives are not worth living.


Prof O’Neill argued that institutionalising euthanasia “risks threatening the principle that we have the same claim to respect and dignity regardless of how much we suffer and how high the quality of life is assessed to be.

“Offering euthanasia says, directly or indirectly, that some lives are not worth living. This in turn will amplify covert and overt prejudice against life with disability or conditions such as dementia.”

He observed: “Bringing such profound and considered reflection to the Irish situation can be challenging, given the tenor of some of the debate at the joint committee.

the case against any change is overwhelming

“Discourse from some committee members echoed neoliberal, consumerist and populist perspectives whereby the wishes of the individual overshadowed consideration of the common good.”

Alternative vision

Committee members who voted against its recommendations, including Chair Michael Healy-Rae TD and Senator Rónán Mullen, released a separate report warning against changing the law.

Their Minority Recommendations and Explanatory Report concluded: “The case has not been established, whereas the case against any change is overwhelming.”

Writing on X, Senator Mullen said, “we are not islands”, but “a tangled web of interconnected and vulnerable lives, all of which are worth living. Legislation for assisted dying would endanger the lives and happiness of many people.”

Also see:

Presbyterian Church in Ireland: ‘Assisted suicide is not a sign of a caring society’

Oireachtas committee ignores ‘overwhelming’ evidence by backing assisted suicide

Scots medics oppose McArthur’s death bill

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