- The Iona Institute - https://ionainstitute.ie -

What Irish euthanasia advocates really want

An Oireachtas committee has recommended euthanasia for those judged to be within six to 12 months of death. If we go down this path, we can fully expect there to be pressure to allow it on far more expansive grounds. We know this because pro-euthanasia advocates who appeared before the committee were quite clear on what they want.

A new document [1] from The Iona Institute called ‘What Irish Euthanasia Advocates Really Want’ quotes from the testimony of activists themselves who said they want euthanasia to be available not only to the terminally ill, but also to those with “life-limiting” conditions like dementia, and even to those with severe mental illness. One campaigner wants it made available on the same grounds as in Switzerland which does not require a person to be ill at all.

It would be the height of naivety, therefore, to think euthanasia, if introduced, will be restricted long-term to the terminally ill only.

Here is what some of the witnesses told the committee:

Jane Lazar of End-of-Life Ireland: “We’re asking you as legislators, to honour a person who has a terminal or life limiting diagnosis. Because time alone, ‘foreseeable death’ ought not be the sole basis for calculating eligibility criteria; some neurodegenerative conditions can go on for years as we see with Dementia, with MS.” (Opening statement [2] read on 7th November 2023 to the Oireachtas Committee on Assisted Dying)

Justin McKenna of End-of-Life Ireland: “You can live with dementia for a very long time. We in this room will all know people who are in that condition and who could sustain a life, or perhaps an existence. However, is it healthy? Is it healthy in the way they would like it to be? In a previous time, when they had capacity and when they were able to determine what they regarded as quality, they should be allowed to maintain it and decide when it should end, if that quality no longer exists.” (Testimony [3] presented on 7th November 2023 to the Oireachtas Committee on Assisted Dying)

Dr Louise Campbell, NUI Galway (in response to Senator Lynn Ruane): “…it has been argued that it could be discriminatory to distinguish between suffering based entirely on physical illness and an equivalent degree of suffering based entirely on mental illness. It is something to seriously consider”. (Expert testimony [4] presented on 27th June 2023 to the Oireachtas Committee on Assisted Dying)

Tom Curran, Exit International: “I would like the committee to look at the Swiss option”. (Testimony [5] presented on 19th October 2023 to the Oireachtas Committee on Assisted Dying. Switzerland allows assisted suicide even when a person is not ill).

Notably, the pro-euthanasia members of the committee never pushed back against any of these sentiments and even encouraged them on occasion, so we can clear see the direction of travel if we permit euthanasia/assisted suicide on any grounds at all.

As Dr. Merete Nordentoft, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Copenhagen told committee members: “The only thing that will be able to protect the lives…of those who are most vulnerable in society will be a ban without exceptions.” This is very much the view of The Iona Institute.