Assisted dying is a ‘very serious’ and ‘complex’ issue that must get the same level of debate as abortion did, according to Dying with Dignity Committee Chair Michael Healy-Rae.
This morning, the Kerry TD is leading the committee’s first public sitting in the Oireachtas.
The committee will investigate new laws to allow those suffering from a terminal illness to be assisted in dying.
Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast, Deputy Healy-Rae said the committee has been meeting for several weeks now in private.
“Once we start today with our official first meeting, we have a nine-month period before we lay a report before the House of the Oireachtas,” he said.
Deputy Healy-Rae said the Dying with Dignity Committee is a joint committee, including officials from the Department of Justice and from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.
“Those people will come in and give evidence and answer questions from senators and TDs,” he said.
“Indeed, this is a very serious issue.”
The Chairperson said the committee “may or may not” make recommendations to the Oireachtas following deliberations and research.
“At the moment, if you assist somebody in dying that attracts a mandatory jail sentence,” he said.
“What we've been asked to do is look at this issue to see if is there a need, a want, a requirement – is it right to vary that whole situation?
“You can imagine how complex that whole issue is.
“You can imagine all the stakeholders that are involved, and that would have something to say on this matter.
“So, we will be bringing in all of those people and listening to what they have to say, listening to their evidence, questioning it, and after that, making a decision.”
Deputy Healy-Rae likened the debate to the 2018 abortion referendum.
“There are varying and different positions and different outlooks on this whole issue,” he said.
“When the whole issue of abortion was being discussed, you had people that were on one side, people on another side and people who might have been in the middle.
“They took on board all of the evidence that was given at that committee at that time, and they came up with outcomes and decisions.
“The same thing is being asked of our committee and this is up to us to take on this very serious job of work and do it in a proper and considered and intelligent fashion.
“It is up to us to look at everything and come up with the best decision at the end of that.”
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