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Establishment of Special Committee to examine Dying with Dignity Bill recommended

The Justice Committee said today that the proposed legislation has “serious technical issues”.

Stock photo.
Stock photo.
Image: Shutterstock/cmp55

A SPECIAL COMMITTEE should be established to examine assisted dying, the Oireachtas Justice Committee has recommended after examining the proposed Dying with Dignity Bill.

The legislation would permit terminally ill people to avail of medical assistance to die in certain circumstances. It would give a medical practitioner the legal right to provide assistance to a qualifying person to end their life.

The Justice Committee said today that the proposed legislation has “serious technical issues” and it warrants more detailed examination from a Special Oireachtas Committee.

The bill was introduced in the Dáil by opposition deputies Gino Kenny, Mick Barry, Richard Boyd Barrett, Paul Murphy and Bríd Smith last year and was voted to committee stage.

The Justice Committee carried out lengthy scrutiny of the bill, including seeking public submissions on the topic.

Over 1,400 public submissions were received by the deadline in January 2021.

The Justice Committee said today that the submissions fell under broad categories relating to legal, medical, personal, academic, faith-based and end-of-life or rights-based perspectives on the provisions contained within the Bill.

The Bill was also sent to the Office of the Parliamentary Legal Advisers (OPLA) to check the legal and constitutional implications of the proposed legislation.

Justice Committee Cathaoirleach James Lawless said the committee has determined that the Bill has “serious technical issues in several sections”, that it may have unintended policy consequences and that the drafting of several sections of the Bill contains “serious flaws”.

Lawless added that the gravity of the topic could potentially benefit from detailed consideration by a Special Oireachtas Committee.

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“It reluctantly decided that the Bill should not progress to Committee Stage but that a Special Oireachtas Committee should be established, at the earliest convenience, to progress the matter,” Lawless said.

“In addition, all submissions received by the Justice Committee would be shared with any such Committee,” he added.

The idea of holding a Citizens’ Assembly on assisted dying was proposed last year. However, at the time, it was accepted that this could prove difficult in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Citizens’ assemblies previously considered the issues of abortion and marriage equality and recommended separate referendums on both issues.

Constitutional experts say a referendum would not need to be held to allow a law for assisted dying to be passed by the Oireachtas.

About the author:

Céimin Burke

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