Letter: Assisted dying

Dear Editor,
In ‘Dying for debate and reform’ (IMT, July 2021) the article incorrectly states that the Justice Committee decided to establish a Special Committee. In its report the Justice Committee made a recommendation that the Government establish a Special Committee. The decision whether to do so or not is awaited.

We agree with you, as Editor, that ‘we need a debate, and we need debaters’ and also ‘that respect for other opinions is the entry ticket’.

Given that ‘Nearly all the 36 submissions in this category (medical stakeholders focusing on mental health issues and palliative care) stated their opposition to the proposed Bill or raised doubts and concerns over elements contained within the Bill’, and of the 64 submissions on an ‘individual medical basis’, the majority were opposed to the Bill (Report on scrutiny of the Dying with Dignity Bill 2020, p.17 and p.15 respectively), we are wondering why, in the interest of debate, a doctor with concerns about the Bill was not also included? Why was only a doctor supporting the Bill quoted in your article?

We are curious about the statement that ‘200 million people worldwide have availed of an assisted death’. There was no reference given for this and it is not consistent with internationally published data on assisted dying either by physician prescribed hastened death nor physician provided euthanasia.

Providing excellent, person-centred, evidence-based and science-informed, compassionate care for persons with advanced disease or who are dying is essential and what healthcare should aspire to deliver.

The evidence of the operation of these laws in Canada and the Netherlands where assisted dying is available for persons with mental health issues alone and other jurisdictions where the legalisation of euthanasia and assisted suicide or physician prescribed hastened death exists consistently shows expansion of eligibility over time.

We can be the compassionate society that we want to be. This unsafe and flawed bill was and is not the way.

Yours sincerely,
Dr Miriam Colleran, Consultant in Palliative Medicine, Kildare and West Wicklow
Dr Eric Kelleher, Consultant Liaison Psychiatrist, Cork
Prof. Anne Doherty, Consultant Liaison Psychiatrist, Dublin
Dr Gabrielle Colleran, Consultant Paediatric Radiologist, Dublin

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