The Government is likely to oppose a controversial bill aimed at introducing assisted dying in Ireland, despite some in power thinking it should be supported.
The bill, tabled by Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny, will be debated in the Dáil on September 15 and while the departments of health and justice are said to be “hostile” to what the bill intends, sources in each of the three Government parties believe there is some merit in what it aims to achieve.
This is driven largely by the fact that Vicky Phelan, the well-known cancer campaigner, has thrown her support behind the bill.
According to sources, there is doubt whether such a rigid approach will fly with all three parties in Government. Senior sources in the Green Party have said several of its TDs are sympathetic to the merits of the bill.
The main reason for this is that in a 2013 Supreme Court case taken by the terminally-ill Marie Fleming, while the court rejected her appeal, the presiding judge said there was nothing to stop the Oireachtas from legislating to allow for assisted suicide once it was satisfied appropriate safeguards could be put in place.
The text of the bill states its purpose is to make provision for the assistance in achieving a dignified and peaceful end of life in a qualifying person, and to provide for other related matters.
“The rationale behind the bill is to give to a person the legal and medical right of the authorisation of assisted dying where that person is suffering from a terminal illness. If this bill is enacted, this would give a medical practitioner the legal right to provide assistance to a qualifying person to end his or her own life in accordance with the terms set out in the act,” it states.
Speaking to the, Mr Kenny said his bill would only make the provision of assisted suicide for terminally-ill people.
“This bill would be very restrictive and nobody would be under any obligation to go this route. The reality is is that palliative care only goes so far and some people will have a painful end,” he said.
Under the bill, those who seek this provision must be in a position where their illness cannot be stopped.
Two medical practitioners, including one independent doctor, must agree that the person meets the criteria. When the approval is given, a cooling-off period of 14 days begins, in case the person changes their mind.
“There is oversight all the time; this is for a small number of people in very limited circumstances,” Mr Kenny said.
Addressing the fear that elderly people could be coerced into this process due to predatory relatives, Mr Kenny said there is little or no evidence that this actually happens.