The law in the Republic of Ireland should not be changed to allow euthanasia or assisted suicide, the Irish Association for Palliative Care (IAPC) has told the Oireachtas.
In a paper sent to Parliament’s Joint Committee on Assisted Dying, the IAPC said its members were committed to “caring for a person with a life-limiting illness, not about ending life”.
The parliamentary committee, formed to explore how legalising assisted suicide “might operate” nationally in response to Gino Kenny TD’s Dying with Dignity Bill, will begin public deliberations on 13 June.
But the IAPC said palliative care “should not involve any action or treatment which is designed to cause a patient’s death”, and is consequently incompatible with assisted suicide.
“Our focus is on supporting people experiencing physical and existential distress”, the paper stated, adding: “The IAPC does not support any change in the law to legalise euthanasia or physician assisted suicide.”
The law preventing healthcare professionals from assisting vulnerable patients to kill themselves, it argued, protects those “who may be basing their decision to die” on “a sense of being burdensome” or due to “mental health conditions”.
We are truly grateful to the dedicated members of the IAPC Ethics forum for developing a position paper on Assisted Dying. It has been submitted to the Joint Oireachtas Committee with a hearing requested.
— Irish Association for Palliative Care (@palliativeire) May 25, 2023
Last year, Micheál Martin, Ireland’s Taoiseach at the time, said that elderly people risk being put “under pressure” to end their own lives if the law is changed to allow assisted suicide.
During an interview, he expressed concerns about Kenny’s Bill, warning that the implications of removing safeguards could be felt “far and wide”.
He also noted that improvements in palliative care over the past two decades had made the end of life more comfortable for both patients and their families.
In 2021, representatives of the Church of Ireland, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and the Roman Catholic Church warned Parliament: “The true measure of any society is how it treats its most vulnerable and the Bill would increase, not lessen, their vulnerability.”