Group of GPs set to back Dying with Dignity Bill

Group of GPs set to back Dying with Dignity Bill

Gino Kenny during the launch of Dying with Dignity Bill 2020. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins

A group of GPs are to publicly declare its support for the pending bill aimed at allowing terminally ill people to end their own lives.

With the deadline for submissions to the Oireachtas justice committee falling this month, focus is again turning to the controversial bill which passed second stage in the Dáil in October after the Government lost the vote.

Following Zoom meetings with the bill’s primary sponsor, People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny, a group of doctors are now willing to back the bill, a move which will be seen as significant.

Mr Kenny said that another community group, End of Life Ireland, will next week publicly announce its backing of the bill, which will be the subject of public hearings this Dáil term.

Mr Kenny accepts that those backing the bill, whether they are medical experts or not, will not be speaking for the entirety of their sectors, and that the issue is deeply divisive.

 Supporters of the Dying with Dignity Bill pictured at the Dáil in 2020: Tom Curran, Vicky Phelan, Gino Kenny TD, and Gail O’Rorke. File Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Supporters of the Dying with Dignity Bill pictured at the Dáil in 2020: Tom Curran, Vicky Phelan, Gino Kenny TD, and Gail O’Rorke. File Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins

The deadline for submissions to the committee is January 22, with public hearings to begin shortly thereafter. The committee is expected to produce a final report with recommendations before the summer recess.

Mr Kenny is prepared to allow his bill, as it currently stands, to be amended.

“The bill will change during the process,” he said. "But the backing of medics would be significant, that has been the missing part up to his point. 

They don’t speak for every medic, but it is an important development."

However, there is opposition to the bill within the Dáil. Independent Kerry TD and member of the Rural Independent Group, Michael Healy-Rae, said that he is not in favour of relaxing the laws.

While expressing sympathy for those who are proposing this bill, he said: “One man brings you into the world — his name is God — and one man takes you out, and his name is God. I am not saying I am right. I am not making light of anyone else’s position.”

The bill seeks to make provision for the assistance in achieving a dignified and peaceful end of life in a qualifying person.

The rationale behind the bill is to give a person the legal and medical right of the authorisation of assisted dying where that person is suffering from a terminal illness.

If enacted, the bill 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.

A person is a qualifying person if their terminal illness is verified as such by two medical practitioners. The diagnosis of the medical practitioners must be that the illness is incurable, progressive, and is one which cannot be reversed by treatment, and that the person is likely to die as a result of that illness or complications relating to it, the bill states.

Section 10 of the bill deals with the assessment of a qualifying person’s capacity to make the decision to end their own life. 

“The person’s capacity shall be assessed on the basis of his or her ability to understand the nature of the consequence of a decision made by him or her in the context of the available choices at the time the decision is made,” the bill states.

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