In its response to Oireachtas Committee on Justice’s consultation on the Dying with Dignity Bill 2020, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) has said that it would ‘leave vulnerable members of our society open to abuse, duress or the weight of a perceived expectation that they will relieve others of the burden of caring for them…’ TDs were also warned that it was ‘poorly drafted’ and contained ‘no robust or sufficient safeguards.’ In short, PCI’s submission stated that the Bill should not proceed.
Highlighting the key points raised by the PCI panel that advises the Church on social, political and economic matters in the State, former Moderator, Very Rev Dr Trevor Morrow, who was minister of Lucan Presbyterian Church for 31 years, said, “This Bill, which is poorly drafted and deeply flawed, raises serious and fundamental questions about the value that is placed on human life in Ireland, something that we firmly believe to be a gift from God.
“Our experience as pastors is that the components that contribute to a peaceful and dignified death are social, emotional, financial and spiritual. By focusing so restrictedly on the physical aspects of dying, this legislation fails to take account of these factors which can help to mitigate, or exacerbate, human suffering and distress.”
Dr Morrow continued, “It is notable that the Irish Association for Palliative Care has recommended that there should be no change in the law in order to legalise euthanasia. We believe that, rather than passing this Bill, TDs would be better focusing their time and energy on improving the care needs of those approaching the end of their lives in a consistent manner, providing support to help them live as well as possible in the time that they have left to them.”
In 2018, members of PCI’s General Assembly, attending from across Ireland, discussed this matter and voted to oppose any legislation which allowed for assisted suicide, or euthanasia in these islands. At the same time, the Church strongly commended palliative care and called on the governments in both jurisdictions to ensure adequate resourcing of research and delivery in this important area.
Dr Morrow concluded by saying, “Last autumn, when this Bill was initially debated in the Dáil, along with our Moderator, Dr Bruce, I wrote to all TDs encouraging them to ‘commit to enhancing the quality of life for all Irish citizens, particularly those with terminal or life-limiting conditions, rather than ending it.’ The true measure of any society is how it treats its most vulnerable. This Bill serves only to increase, and not lessen, the vulnerability of those at the end of their life. On that ground alone, it is PCI’s recommendation that the Bill, having been given due consideration, should proceed no further.”
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