Assisted dying is not about ending a person’s life, it’s ending the suffering – what the Dying With Dignity Bill means

Photograph: Getty

Published in The Sun

THE Dying With Dignity Bill 2020 will be debated in the Dail this Thursday.

The bill aims to provide the right to assisted dying for people with a terminal illness.

Cervical cancer campaigner Vicky Phelan has also spoken in favour of it. People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny has introduced the bill — and if passed it would pave the way for euthanasia for people with terminal diseases in Ireland.

Labour, Sinn Fein and the Social Democrats are backing the bill — while Government parties could give their TDs a free vote on it.

Cervical cancer campaigner Vicky Phelan has also spoken in favour of it.

Here Kenny, outlines the importance of this week’s debate in the Dail.


Next Thursday, People Before Profit will move the Dying with Dignity Bill in the Dail.

This stage of the process will be crucial in how the bill proceeds. From the outset I have called for a vote of conscience if any party has not formulated a position on the issue.

What this means is that a party allows their members to vote according to their own personal conscience on an issue that may be contentious.

Indications are that the three Government parties will allow a free vote when it comes to the vote itself the following Wednesday.

Sinn Fein, Social Democrats, Labour Party and a number of independents have stated that they will support the bill on Thursday.

The Dying with Dignity Bill 2020 will allow for doctors to assist a person with a terminal illness in achieving a dignified and peaceful end of life.

The person must be fully aware of the decision they are making and have reached that decision on a voluntary basis without coercion or duress.

This would be overseen by two independent medical practitioners. A person would not be eligible on the grounds of advanced age, suffering from a mental illness or having a disability of any kind.


After a period of not less than 14 days has elapsed, the person’s declaration will take effect. Throughout the legislation there is oversight and strict regulation in accordance with the law itself.

Some people may have concerns about patients being unduly coerced or pressured for nefarious reasons. There is no evidence at all that in jurisdictions where assisted dying has been legalised that this has happened.

Some opponents of assisted dying legislation have used completely inappropriate language to conflate suicide with voluntary assisted dying.

It is wholly irresponsible to use this kind of language in what is a very emotive and sensitive debate. It is crucial to state that the most important voice to be heard and considered in this debate is the person who finds themselves in this profoundly difficult situation.

For most, this issue will never arise but there are circumstances in which a painful or difficult conclusion of one’s life cannot be ameliorated by conventional medicine.

Faced with long periods of unbearable suffering, the people in these circumstances should have a choice in ending their life legally and medically on their own terms.


This can only be done by amending the Criminal Law Act 1993. With this amendment, it would no longer be a criminal offence for an authorised medical practitioner to provide assistance in strict accordance with the act to a person who has made an informed choice to end their life.

There is also a clause in the bill which provides for a medical practitioner to reserve the right to conscientiously object to participating.

Voluntary assisted dying should never be framed as an alternative to hospice or palliative care, which provides invaluable support for many, and which I fully support. In fact, more resources for end of life care are urgently needed.

The debate around assisted dying is not an easy conversation to have, but it is one that, as a more progressive society, we need to have.

Vicky Phelan’s candid and immensely moving testimony on this issue recently has, in my opinion, changed the narrative and is courageously leading the conversation we must have over the coming weeks and months.

Vicky’s plea to politicians to move this debate forward will, in time, be a turning point, and a catalyst for legislative change in Ireland around assisted dying.

Numerous opinion polls conducted in recent years suggest public opinion is way ahead of politicians on this issue.

The moving stories of Marie Fleming and Bernadette Forde, who sought solace from suffering towards the end of their lives, will have been heard with empathy by many.

Many now believe that informed choice about ending unbearable suffering of a terminal illness should be legislated for. Assisted dying is not about ending life, it is about ending suffering when a person’s life is coming to an end as a result of terminal illness.