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Tue, 27 October 2020

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TDs to vote tonight on landmark Irish Dying with Dignity Bill

Dignity in Dying

3 min read Partner content

A vote this evening (9.30pm, Wednesday 7 October 2020) in Ireland’s Dáil could bring an assisted dying law closer to reality.

Speakers overwhelmingly supported the legislation in a debate last Thursday and the bill also has the backing of campaigners Vicky Phelan, who has terminal cancer, Gail O’Rorke, who was found not guilty of assisting in the suicide of her terminally ill friend Bernadette Forde, and Tom Curran, whose late wife Marie fought in the Irish courts for her right to die on her own terms. The legislation would enable terminally ill, mentally competent adults the choice to request medical assistance to end their lives.

The bill is currently at second stage and TDs will vote tonight on whether it will proceed to committee stage. The coalition government tabled an amendment last week that would delay the passage of the bill for a year while a special Oireachtas joint committee examined the issue of assisted dying. The amendment is viewed by some TDs as an effort to delay or wreck the bill and would prefer it continues into pre-legislative scrutiny by a Dáil select committee. 

The debate in Ireland comes as New Zealand prepares to hold the world’s first national referendum on assisted dying on October 17th, after its Parliament passed an assisted dying bill last year. With soaring public support, it is likely to pass, and New Zealand may follow in the footsteps of two Australian states, 10 jurisdictions across the US and all of Canada in introducing assisted dying legislation which enables terminally ill, mentally competent adults the choice to die on their own terms, subject to strict safeguards.

Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying, said:

“While the rest of the world moves on, the UK is lagging shamefully behind. Terminally ill people and their loved ones are bearing the brunt of our inaction and the pandemic is exacerbating their suffering even further. We have heard from a son whose terminally ill mother threw herself off a tall building because she was unable to get to Switzerland due to the ever-changing travel restrictions, local lockdowns and inter-country quarantines. We have also been contacted by a healthcare professional with advanced cancer who is determined to get to Dignitas but is travelling alone for fear of incriminating their loved ones, and may have to spend their final days isolating in a foreign hotel room because of Swiss quarantine rules. The ban on assisted dying does not offer protection - it merely drives the practice underground and overseas, with disastrous consequences for British families.

“There is a growing clamour from across society for an urgent review of our cruel, outdated laws. Cross-party Parliamentarians, Police and Crime Commissioners, interfaith leaders and senior figures in the medical profession, including most recently Emeritus Medical Director of Public Health England Paul Cosford, all recognise that the ban on assisted dying is simply not working. COVID-19 has highlighted and exacerbated longstanding problems with death and dying in this country, including the woeful lack of meaningful choice and control. We must address these problems now in the form of an inquiry - not in spite of the pandemic, but because of it.”

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