Submission to Oireachtas Committee on Justice regarding the Dying with Dignity Bill 2020

Please note: This submission is a response to the draft Private Member’s Bill, per the call for submissions from the Department of Justice. This submission is not a College position on physician-assisted suicide. The College remains in consultation with members to develop a formal position paper on physician-assisted suicide.

Doctors enter their profession with the expressed wish to heal, bring comfort to the suffering, and to provide compassionate care when faced with illnesses that cannot be cured, in the full knowledge that we will all face death at the end of our life’s journey. With the tremendous advances in healthcare over the past century, along with an increasing focus on the rights of the individual to self-determination, there is an understandable wish to minimise suffering in all forms, and to maintain a sense of control in the face of death. In an effort to address these concerns, and the distress of those who face, or stand alongside those who face such challenges, the “Dying with Dignity” Bill seeks to legalise Physician-Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, and to regulate it through the involvement of doctors. However, it raises many serious concerns. We recommend addressing these essential issues through a broader piece of work, incorporating necessary improvements across a range of initiatives, including improvements in palliative care, the management of chronic pain, and enhanced supports for the ill and suffering.