Last night the Dail debated Gino Kenny’s assisted suicide bill. But it wasn’t a debate because only one TD opposed to the bill was allowed to speak, namely Peter Fitzpatrick, and he was given only four minutes. In other words, 71 out of the 75 minutes allotted went to speakers who support the bill. Other TDs opposed to the bill were given no opportunity to speak, including Carol Nolan, Peadar Toibin and Mattie McGrath.
This is not the way to discuss a measure of such enormous importance. In fact, it is an act of delinquency.
Here are some of the main points from last night’s ‘debate’.
- Justice Minister Helen McEntee voiced no principled objection to assisted suicide. Her main concern was with ‘safeguards’. She quoted assisted suicide advocate, Michael Nugent of Atheist Ireland, but not any of the doctors opposed to assisted suicide who have appeared in the media recently.
- She and the Government want to establish another ‘special committee’ to discuss the matter, similar to the special committee on abortion chaired by Catherine Noone.
- None of the TDs who support the bill and who spoke last night challenged its extremely broad definition of terminal illness, or the fact that a terminally illness person can potentially be years from death and still avail of this law, if passed. Even as it stands, this is a very permissive law.
- TDs who spoke in favour of the bill included Sinn Fein health spokesman, David Cullinane, Labour leader Alan Kelly, and Social Democrat co-leader, Roisin Shortall.
- Roisin Shortall approvingly quoted columnist Fintan O’Toole who admitted this week that he was willing to bring his late father to a euthanasia facility in Switzerland, even though his father was chronically rather than terminally ill.
- Several TDs approvingly quoted Tom Curran of Exit International. Exit International want to extend assisted suicide to anyone of ‘sound mind’ whether they are sick or not. In an interview on Drivetime this week, Fintan O’Toole said something similar.
Where do things go from here? There will be a vote in the Dail next Wednesday. This will either let the bill go to committee stage, or a majority will vote in favour of the Government proposal to set up a special committee after which the promise is that a version of the bill will come before the Dail again this time next year at the latest.
It appears only a very big pushback from a significant section of the public and/or a strong, concerted effort from doctors will stop Ireland becoming one of the few countries in the world so far to introduce assisted suicide. Such is our anxiety to be as ‘modern’ as possible.