Cork TD backs bill for dignified and peaceful end of life

Cork TD backs bill for dignified and peaceful end of life
Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O'Brien at Leinster House on Kildare Street, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

WATCHING his father die from Motor Neurone disease has convinced a Cork TD that euthanasia should be available in Ireland.

Sinn Fein’s Cork North Central TD Jonathan O’Brien is now hoping that plans by Junior Minister John Halligan to bring his Dying with Dignity Bill before the Dáil in the coming weeks will pave the way for the introduction of euthanasia.

The move is being made following the massive support for the removal of the 8th amendment on abortion from the Constitution in the recent referendum.

The referendum result has been interpreted by many as a move towards a more liberal society, which recognises the public desire for greater bodily autonomy.

Deputy O’Brien said Ireland has just come through a “very difficult referendum campaign where the right to life was the issue.”

He said bodily autonomy has now been given to women and asks why terminally ill people should not also have greater control over their lives.

He said that the area of euthanasia is one which is much more clear-cut for him than the debate surrounding abortion.

Mr O’Brien initially came from a pro-life viewpoint but moved to a pro-choice position over the last year and actively supported the Yes for Repeal campaign.

Mr O’Brien said watching his father die made him realise that euthanasia could be a compassionate option for some people.

“For the last six months of his life, my father was paralysed from the neck down and he was in a lot of pain. He was mentally perfect.

“Motor Neurone is a degenerative disease and it took every bit of dignity from my father. He died in 2012.”

Deputy O’Brien stressed that the issue is about someone who is terminally ill, has lived their life and has the mental capacity to make a decision that they want to die.

He acknowledged that safeguards would have to be put in place if euthanasia was to be introduced here.

One area which would have to be addressed is to ensure that those seeking euthanasia are not being coerced into it by another person.

Minister John Halligan brought the Dying with Dignity Bill before the Dáil three years ago. However, an election just months later meant the legislation did not progress.

But following the recent referendum, Minister Halligan is working on bringing the bill back to the Dáil.

Mr Halligan said he is just “weeks” away from producing fresh legislation that will open up the options for “achieving a dignified and peaceful end of life”.

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