A recent Oireachtas report suggests there are legal deficiencies in the draft Dying with Dignity Bill that could result in yet another delay to introducing Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) in Ireland. It is our understanding that the Bill will be considered next week and subsequently a decision will be made on whether to proceed with the Dying with Dignity Bill as a means of legislating for VAD. We call upon the Committee on Justice (COJ) to make recommendations to address the known deficiencies in the draft Bill so that it can proceed to the next stage.
As a result of our research into VAD, End of Life Ireland (EOLI) now has direct access to legal and medical professionals across the globe in jurisdictions where VAD has been available (in some cases for more than 20 years), who are willing to share their experience with Ireland to develop legislation with the necessary proven safeguards.
- There is a need for Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) to relieve unnecessary suffering some people experience prior to death. This is a matter of concern not only to those with terminal conditions but also to their families and friends.
- There is a need to remove the criminal sanction where doctors who practise palliative care may be accused of assisting death.
- There is a need to recognise the autonomy of the patient who should be allowed to choose an assisted death provided appropriate safeguards are in place and prescribed regulation and oversight are agreed.
- The European Court of Human Rights allows a wide margin of appreciation in the context of regulating end of life decisions and patient autonomy.
- International experience shows that there is increasing universal support for VAD. Public opinion in Ireland recognises the quality of human dignity as expressed in recent referendums. Ireland is a leader among nations in this regard. Jurisdictions that have accommodated the principle of VAD have never had those laws repealed.
- At the core of the concept is the principle of choice which gives immeasurable peace of mind to those who apply even if they do not enact that choice.
- The Supreme Court in the Fleming case prepared the ground for the introduction of this Bill. In 15 sections the Bill sets out its policy and principles, reflecting the HIQA Freda Principles of Fairness, Respect, Equality, Dignity and Autonomy. These principles are not unique to Ireland. They are human. Legislation already exists based on extensive public debate, research and practice where Voluntary Assisted Dying has been in place for over 20 years, from which Ireland can draw.
- The COJ must invigorate this vital debate and use all options open to it with the objective of reinforcing the provisions in the draft Bill are flawed and correcting those technical errors that require attention so that the drafting of robust safeguards for the DwD legislation may proceed.
We hope and have faith that our Justice Committee will ensure compassion and humanity are not overshadowed in the process of drafting this legislation. Across the world public opinion continues to move in favour of voluntary assisted dying. Ireland is lagging behind our European neighbours in legislating for VAD as an end of life choice. We have come too far not to progress legislation in line with societal change.
End of Life Ireland (EOLI) is a voluntary body established with the aim of fostering conversation about all end-of-life issues including the passage of legislation to enable voluntary assisted dying in certain circumstances.