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Assisted Dying

'A complex issue': New committee on assisted dying holds first meeting ahead of public sessions

Once it goes into public session, the committee must produce a report on the issue within nine months.

THE FIRST MEETING of the Oireachtas Committee on Assisted Dying was held last night, after months of delay.

The cross-party panel of TDs and senators will examine whether a system should be implemented to allow terminally ill people to avail of medical assistance to die in certain circumstances. 

There are six areas of discussion that the committee will address. These include legal and ethical questions, as well as analysis of how other states have implemented assisted dying.

People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny, speaking in the wake of the first private meeting of the committee, described it as a “very complex issue”.

Kenny said that although there is “not one perfect model”, Ireland can learn from international legislation, such as that of Oregan in the United States and some Australian states.

Independent Senator Rónán Mullen said: “I get the sense that there is a greater balance of opinion among TDs and senators on this issue than there might have been on the abortion committee.”

‘Assisted suicide’

While “assisted dying” is the term used officially in the committee, some members refer to the matter as “assisted suicide”.

Kenny says that labelling the act “suicide” is “highly irresponsible”.

“I think the vast majority of people won’t use that terminology, but if they want to use it, I can’t stop them”, he said.

This is largely cosmetic. I would rather concentrate on more important elements of the issue.

In contrast, Mullen says assisted dying as a term is “euphemistic” because it “masks the idea that people are actually having their lives ended deliberately”.

“It’s kind of honeyed words to describe something that is very complicated, very difficult and potentially very dangerous.”

Public consultation

The first private meeting of the special committee was originally set for October 2022, but was delayed.

It was suggested yesterday that the committee not meet in public until September to avoid interruption from the summer recess.

“I am particularly against that”, said Kenny, who is “confident” it will meet within the next five weeks.

Once it goes into public session, the committee must produce a report on the issue within nine months.

“Those who maybe might want to see a change in the law would say the sooner we start, the sooner it’s before the government – there’ll be time for plans before the next elections”, Mullen said.

Kenny added that discussions on the issue have been going on for “over a decade” and it’s time for a forum that can give “not only public representatives an understanding of assisted dying, but also the public”.

Contributors will include medical professionals, palliative care specialists and people personally affected by the issue.

The committee is tasked with identifying possible unintended consequences of assisted dying legislation.

It may recommend that no change be made to current laws. 

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