Right to die will pose risk to vulnerable people, doctors warn

The introduction of assisted dying and euthanasia in Ireland would put vulnerable patients at risk for reasons such as fear of being a burden, the body representing the country’s psychiatrists warned today.

he College of Psychiatrists of Ireland, in a new position paper, expressed strong opposition to assisted dying. It will be at the center of a major ‘right to die’ debate next year by a special committee of the Oireachtas set up to consider the Dying with Dignity (2020) bill.

Consultant Liaison Psychiatrist Dr Eric Kelleher said: “We are keenly aware of the sensitivity of this topic, and understand and support that dying with dignity is the goal of all end-of-life care.

“Strengthening our palliative care and social support networks makes this possible.

“Not only is assisted dying or euthanasia not necessary for a dignified death, the techniques used to bring about death can themselves cause considerable and prolonged suffering.

“Medical euthanasia is often not a peaceful process and there are reports of prolonged death for up to seven days and of people waking up from a coma.

“When assisted dying is available, many requests arise not from overwhelming pain, but from causes such as fear, depression, loneliness and the wish not to burden caregivers. “

The document says physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia are not compatible with good medical care.

The paper claims that although it is often introduced for terminally ill patients, once in place, assisted dying is likely to be applied more widely to other groups.

The number of people benefiting from the procedure is increasing dramatically above expectations.

He said euthanasia creates the risk that many people will die from treatable psychological distress and mental illness.

Psychiatrist Dr Siobhan MacHale said: “Once cleared into a jurisdiction, experience has shown that more and more people die of assisted death.

“This is usually the result of a gradual broadening of the criteria through legal challenges, because if a right to assisted death is granted, there is no logical reason to restrict it to people with AIDS. a terminal illness. “

Palliative care services in Ireland are well developed, but coverage can be patchy and additional investment is needed.

Martin E. Berry