Dying with Dignity

In Blog by Denis Naughten

Tonight in Dáil Eireann we had to decide on whether we support the passage of the Dying with Dignity Bill 2020.


There were many arguments put up on both sides of this debate regarding what is a complex situation, especially for individuals and families facing chronic terminal illnesses.

Having considered the Bill, and having reviewed the Oireachtas Committee Report on the Right to die with Dignity published in June 2018  https://bit.ly/2xv8CsV, I am not prepared to ignore the considered opinion of my colleagues across all parties and none.

The Report states that “Should the legislature consider the legalisation of some form of assisted dying in the future, it should be able to answer the following questions:

i.                 What criteria would render an individual eligible for such assistance?


ii.               What form would this assistance take and what would the role of the doctor be?


iii.              What due care criteria should be put in place (monitoring processes, mandatory reporting requirements, etc.)?


iv.             Could adequate safeguards be put in place to ensure that persons requesting such assistance are not doing so out of compulsion or because their decision-making capacity is compromised by illness, anxiety or depression?


v.               Could palliative care provision be enhanced to ensure that individuals making requests for assistance in dying have adequate access to such services?


vi.             Could supports for persons with disabilities be enhanced to reduce the likelihood that individuals will request assistance in dying because other supports are lacking?


vii.            Could trust in the medical profession be maintained in a healthcare context in which medicine facilitates the wish of certain patients to hasten death?


These questions have not been answered and these questions can only be answered by an Oireachtas Committee established without any predetermined conclusion, which is the alternative being proposed through the Government amendment that this Bill will pass not now but in 12 months’ time.

As a result, I cannot support the passage of 2nd Stage of this Bill without answers to what for me are vital questions highlighted in that parliamentary report.

However, I do believe it is important that an Oireachtas Committee is established without delay to follow up from the previous report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee and provide answers in an expeditious manner to these questions in advance of the consideration of legislation in this area.