Euthanasia and assisted suicide are growing issues that can no longer be swept under the carpet, according to Fine Gael mental health spokesperson, Dan Neville TD.
Mr Neville warned that a ‘slippery slope’ might develop in the event of euthanasia becoming acceptable, after a survey by the Irish Association of Suicidology found that 48% of those questioned agreed that people with incurable illness should be allowed to commit suicide in a dignified manner.
“As international opinion regarding euthanasia in cases of serious physical illness has become more liberal and with the increased control over biological life due to improvements in medical treatment, there will be pressure to liberalise Irish legislation on euthanasia and assisted suicide,” he said.
According to Mr Neville, if euthanasia becomes acceptable under any circumstances, the boundaries of what is considered lawful killing would be stretched even wider. Mr Neville believes that this has happened elsewhere.
“Where euthanasia and assisted suicide have been liberalised there is a blurring between voluntary and involuntary euthanasia. In the Netherlands there are cases of ending life of patients with a mental handicap and with dementia. The ‘slippery slope’ is on the way to involuntary euthanasia for social reasons. It is possible that the elderly (especially those who are elderly and rich) become dispensable,” he said.
Mr Neville explained that the Dutch parliament has decriminalised euthanasia and assisted suicide in circumstances where it is carried out by a physician and certain criteria of due care have been fulfilled, and this criteria even allows for ending the lives of children.
Mr Neville argues that investing in hospices is a better way of ensuring good quality of life.
“The Hospice movement enables people, regardless of their illness, to live life to the end, to live it with dignity and with efficient pain control. The debate must surround how we cater for and invest in facilities to ensure that those who are terminally ill have as good a quality of life and pain control as possible,” he said.
“The acid test of our society is how it protects the life of its most vulnerable citizens, the very young, the very old, the chronically ill, those with severe disability and all those who require our greatest care. As a nation we must never in any way compromise this,” Mr Neville continued.
Mr Neville pointed out that in Ireland it is a crime to aid, abet, counsel or procure the suicide of another since suicide was decriminalised in 1993.
Discussions on this topic are now closed.