End of Life Ireland (EOLI) made a submission to the Justice Committee reviewing the Dying with Dignity Bill 2020. Throughout the submission we have emphasised our core values of choice and compassion.
By choice, we mean people suffering from a terminal illness (only) who wish to end their lives have that choice. By compassion we mean it is a desirable goal to reduce suffering in our society. Compassion will ensure no-one will suffer a prolonged painful death against their wishes.
The submission is based upon our research of the practice around Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD, our preferred term) in countries such as Holland and Canada. Based on international research, we argue that there is no evidence that ‘vulnerable groups’, such as the very elderly, or those with intellectual or physical impairments are adversely affected by the availability of VAD. No such legislation has ever been repealed, reflecting the high levels of acceptance in societies where it is available. We argue that international experience shows that safeguards work.
Irish Doctors supporting Medical Assistance in Dying (IDsMAiD) is a group of medical doctors, with a strong belief in individual patient autonomy, who support choices for people at the end of their lives.
“We believe that a person approaching the end of their life, should be provided with accessible, high-quality and evidence-based care to minimise suffering and support their wishes. Every citizen should be able to access their choice of medical care, including palliative care and Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD). Their individual choices should be discussed, encouraged and promoted. Any genuine choice by a patient, including MAiD, should be respected and supported.”
Dignity in Dying (UK) is a not-for-profit membership organisation based in the United Kingdom and is the leading campaign group for the legalisation of assisted dying throughout the UK. Their membership is drawn from across the UK and includes over 3,000 supporters in Northern Ireland. As the Dying with Dignity Bill would, if enacted in its current form, permit terminally ill, mentally competent residents of the island of Ireland to access assisted dying, they lend their support to the Bill on behalf of their members in Northern Ireland.
An Advance Healthcare Directive (AHD) is a statement made by a competent adult relating to the type and extent of medical treatments they wish to receive. It is a way of formally making known to others what your wishes are for end-of-life care. You can download a copy of an AHD here. It’s a seven-page document that you fill in to fit with your beliefs and wishes.
Sadly, assisting someone to access Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) at end their life is punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment. It follows that that no-one can ask for an assisted death because it might put someone in danger of prosecution. The Dying With Dignity Bill, if passed, will remove that criminal offence and permit doctors to provide a Voluntary Assisted Dying service in very restricted circumstances.
Please do read our series of blog posts outlining how to prepare for end of life, which includes directions on how to complete your Advance Healthcare Directive.