The life-or-death decision awaits

WHEN she spoke at a conference in Dublin yesterday, EU Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly made a pretty straightforward observation as she pointed out that sooner or later, we will have to make a decision on whether we legislate for or against euthanasia.

A growing population of elderly people and science’s capacity to sustain life, even an undignified flicker of life, far beyond what was normal decades ago means that such a decision is unavoidable, if not pressing.

The debate will be ferocious and the battle lines will divide the usual antagonists in the usual way. We may even opt for a hypocritical Irish solution to an Irish problem — export the problem so we can say proudly we remain a safe and pure refuge while the rest of the world goes to hell in a handcart.

Euthanasia is legal in EU states like the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg and the topic continues to be the subject of divisive debates. We have already had some pretty high-profile court cases around the issue and thankfully, no one was jailed as a result of any of them. Very many older people are nursed and very obviously loved in their dying days — especially in our wonderful hospice service — and would not swap one pain-ridden moment for death’s relief. However, the opposite is also true and many terminally ill people would prefer a dignified escape at the moment of their own choosing — and who are we to deny them?


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