Four Irish people every week seek advice on how to help a loved one end their life from an international group campaigning for the legalisation of assisted suicide.
Exit International says it receives a phone call or email seeking the information every 36 hours.
Despite assisted suicide and euthanasia being illegal in every European country except Switzerland, the group’s Irish spokesman Tom Curran said both acts were “without doubt” taking place in this country.
He said, as a result, there is a need for a real debate on the topic, particularly for families who may have a loved one facing painful health problems and with no chance of survival.
“I get about three or four contacts a week, between emails and phone calls,” Mr Curran, whose wife Marie has multiple sclerosis, told trade publication the Medical Independent.
“Loads of people have come to me, people who would never have thought about this before, and said, ‘my mother or my brother or sister were dying’.
“The doctor gave me the morphine and said when you feel the time is right, that the person has had enough, you just administer this.
“That happens all the time. The difficulty with that, and the difference between that and what we advocate, is that the choice is being made by somebody else.
“The control is being passed to the medical profession.”
Mr Curran said about 120 people in Ireland were members of Exit International.
He said these people, and others who are not members, deserve the right to information on how to help a loved one in chronic pain and with no hope of survival.
The office of the DPP said it did not have specific guidelines in relation to assisted suicide, despite the real risk that those who take part in it could face serious criminal charges.
“All cases are looked at on an individual basis and decisions are taken in accordance with the criteria set out in our published guidelines for prosecutors,” a spokesperson said.
Assisted suicide is illegal under the Criminal Law (Suicide) Act, 1993. However, no case has ever been brought forward to test the legislation.
The only place in Europe offering to legally help end someone’s life is through Dignitas in Switzerland.
Britain’s commission on assisted dying has recommended that assisted suicide should be offered to those with less than a year to live.
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