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'People should not suffer intolerable and horrible pain if they want to exit this life'

Independent TD John Halligan introduced ‘right to die’ legislation in the Dáil today.

IRELAND WILL HAVE to address the issue of assisted suicide sooner or later, an independent TD has told the Dáil.

Waterford TD John Halligan was speaking as he introduced the Dignity with Dying Bill 2015 earlier today. He said he had been inspired by the battle of multiple sclerosis (MS) suffer Marie Fleming.

He told the Dáil: “It is an ethical issue this country will have to address sooner or later. People are living longer with the result that the rate of chronic illness is on the rise.”

Fleming lost her Supreme Court appeal to establish a constitutional right to die in April 2013. She died eights months later, aged 59.

Her husband Tom Curran has been a prominent ‘right to die’ campaigner and has worked with Halligan to formulate the proposed legislation.

Halligan’s bill would allow for a person to end their own life subject to being examined by two separate medical practitioners who then sign a valid declaration that the person in question’s decision is voluntary.

tom-and-marie Marie Fleming and her husband Tom Curran Source: Tom Curran

Halligan said the doctors would have to certify that the person has “an incurable and progressive illness which cannot be reversed by treatment and which is likely to lead to their death.”

He said that a third independent witness, who is not a beneficiary of that person’s estate, must also testify that the person seeking assisted suicide has “a clear and settled intention to end their own life when their illness becomes too much to bear”.

Halligan told the Dáil today: “At all times safeguards must be met to show the terminally ill person has reached their decision on an informed basis and without coercion or duress.”

He said a doctor who has a conscientious objection will not be obliged to participate in an assisted death.

halligan

Euthanasia or assisted suicide is already legal in several countries including Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

Opinion polls in recent years estimate that seven out of 10 people would be in favour of assisted suicide for people suffering from a terminal illness, Halligan claimed.

He said that many TDs, both government and opposition, had privately indicated they could support the Bill but acknowledged it was “a taboo” with many of them.

He added: “Suicide has been decriminalised but we still criminalise a person who assists somebody who is terminally ill to die.

That is unfair, inhuman and against the human right of the person who wants to exit this life of their own free will because of immense and intolerable suffering.

Halligan said his own father had suffered a stroke eight years ago and “had a terrible existence” in the final years of his life:

He was incontinent and he could not swallow. Solid food had to be liquidised and liquids had to be solidified yet he fought to live.

He added: “People who fight to live and want to survive should be given the opportunity and all the help they require but a small percentage of people are unable to bear the suffering and they also should be allowed to have a dignified death.”

Read: Assisted suicide could be introduced in Ireland

Explainer: The facts about assisted suicide in Ireland

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Hugh O'Connell

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