An Oireachtas committee is holding its first public meeting today on assisted suicide (which the media euphemistically calls ‘assisted dying’). The line will be that any proposed law will only allow the terminally ill to avail of the procedure. But one of the main campaign organisations, Exit International, wants to go much further than that. It wants assisted suicide made available to anyone who can make a ‘rational’ decision even if they are not sick.
Recently I debated the head of Exit International in Ireland, Tom Curran on The Pat Kenny Show. I put it to him what Exit really wants. In the end, Tom did not deny it. I said Exit wants a much more permissive regime than anything any initial law, restricted to the terminally ill, might allow. Tom replied in the end, “Of course, yeah”.
Tom said he did not believe Exit would get everything it wants. But as we know from countries like Canada, these things start small, and then go big. The assisted suicide/euthanasia lobby never stops with restrictive grounds. It keeps working until it gets everything it wants.
Below are some of the most relevant extracts from debate. (The full debate can be found here).
David Quinn: Tom [Curran] belongs to an organisation called Exit International and Tom doesn’t even try to hide the grounds under which he thinks euthanasia or assisted suicide…should be available. It’s not just for the terminally ill, it’s for people who might be chronically ill or people who have simply got old and tired of life. It says on their website that current assisted suicide laws in the countries that have them don’t serve those who are not terminally ill, don’t serve the elderly and, this really caught my eye, don’t serve couples who wish to go [die] together. So that could be a situation, and Tom was over in Switzerland at the end of 2021 with a couple who had gone there for assisted suicide, one was very seriously ill, the other was not very seriously ill, so they just wanted to [die] together. This is what Exit International want right now: an extremely permissive law around this, so the debate we’re having and the debate they’d probably have in the Dail will be around limited cases where a person is terminally ill and maybe within six months of the end of their life. But as we see in countries which have introduced this, like Canada, they’re now debating assisted suicide for cases of mental health illness, very severe mental health illness, and we’ve seen the grounds rapidly expand in places like Netherlands and Belgium, and the cases rapidly expand. Canada had 10,000 deaths by assisted suicide, two years ago, that’s equivalent to maybe 1,200 here and that has been rising very quickly so you see numbers rise, grounds expand and Exit International isn’t even pretending they don’t want the grounds to expand, they want it available on extremely permissive grounds.
Tom Curran: One of the things that is being put forward is this whole idea of irrationality but none of the countries allow that and certainly Ireland would not allow that. The idea of a mental illness preventing a person from being rational is nonsense, there are lots of mental illnesses that the person could think completely rationally and even in Switzerland, where David is talking about, the day before the person goes forward they have to get a mental assessment from a psychologist or a psychiatrist to prove that they are thinking rationally. The other thing, I didn’t realise that I was coming along here to argue about Exit, I thought we were come down here to argue about assisted dying, the two are totally different and I’m quite happy to talk ….
Pat Kenny: What is the difference?
Tom Curran: The difference is that Exit has a particular set of views, including myself, and to be honest 20 years ago I never thought I’d be sitting here talking about assisted dying and almost everybody that I know that is involved in anything to put it forward or to help, it has been or are involved because of some personal circumstance in their life and if a person hasn’t had some something like that in their life come to them either a friend or a relative or somebody that they loved, then it’s very difficult I think for them to talk about it. They can have their own views and I perfectly respect their views and I respect the views of people who want to continue living, but also I respect the views of people who don’t.
PK: But in terms of the difference between Exit and what you would propose to the Irish legislature, would you propose everything on the Exit’s agenda?
TC: Of course, not at all no, no because there wouldn’t be a hope in hell of that getting it …
DQ: But it’s ultimately what you want though.
TC: Of course, yeah, but hold on a sec, just because we want things doesn’t necessarily mean that we can have them.
DQ: But the slippery slope is right there in front of us, we see it and we see the argument you’re making …
TC: I’m sorry but I disagree that the slippery slope even exists.
DQ: But you’ve proved it.
TC: You’ve mentioned Canada, when you go from zero, which it wasn’t allowed, it was illegal up to a couple of years ago when you go from zero to anything, when you allow people to have access to something, there is going to be an infinitesimal increase and when you let people realise that this, whatever it happens to be is available to them, if they want to take it up they will, if they don’t want to take it this is a matter of choice, it they don’t want to take it up, then they don’t have to.
DQ: But Tom, you’re actually right there demonstrating the existence of the slippery slope because you’ve just admitted that the grounds have widened in Canada, that the numbers have increased in Canada dramatically, that Exit International wants so much more than assisted suicide for the terminally ill. You yourself are talking about cases of mental health illness, you have no philosophical objection to that, you have no philosophical objection to a couple who both want to go together, to be able to avail of this …