Government accused of delaying assisted dying law

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The Government has been accused of delaying a Bill allowing assisted dying in limited circumstances in Ireland.

It would decriminalise medical intervention in the case of the terminally ill who have full ability to give consent.

Ministers want to give significantly more time for TDs’ deliberations and hear a wide range of views.

This Bill is about giving people a choice where it is unbearable pain that they are suffering

Prosecution for assisting someone in taking his or her life can result in imprisonment of up to 14 years.

People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny proposed legalisation in limited circumstances and said sufferers would not be under any duress.

“We should support them and not vilify them,” he said.

He brought a “Dying with Dignity” Bill before the Dail for debate on Thursday evening but ministers want to establish a new committee instead.

Mr Kenny added: “This process will be unduly delayed because of the amendment.”

He said his proposal would allow an adult suffering from a terminal and progressive illness to make a “rational” decision to seek the help of doctors to end their lives.

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He added: “I do not understand why this has to go to an all-party committee because this has been debated at length.

“This Bill is about giving people a choice where it is unbearable pain that they are suffering.”

University lecturer Marie Fleming, who was in the late stages of multiple sclerosis, took a landmark challenge to the Supreme Court on Ireland’s legal ban on assisted suicide.

Ms Fleming (59) lost that battle in the Supreme Court in 2013 and died later that year.

The court said it was open to the Oireachtas to legislate on the matter.

This subject of assisted dying is complex and cannot be rushed

Justice Minister Helen McEntee said consideration was needed of the vital public interest in protecting people nearing the end of their lives who might be vulnerable and at risk of abuse.

She added: “The new committee would report back to this house within 12 months with recommendations.

“This subject of assisted dying is complex and cannot be rushed.

“A special Oireachtas committee is best placed to ensure that there is a full consideration of the issues which arise in this Bill and that is why I am asking deputies to support the counter motion I am proposing.

“The counter motion will also give all of us in here, as well as the general public, the time to consider the fundamental questions and detail of what is being proposed.”

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Labour leader Alan Kelly said improving end of life care and providing outlets for dying with dignity are imperative.

“This issue should not be kicked down the road any longer, I believe we are ready to have this conversation as a country.

“I’ve been struck by many of the cases and advocates for dying with dignity that have been put forward in the last few weeks.

“It has certainly opened my eyes to the extent of how much this provision is needed.”

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