Assisted dying 'a decision for people, not doctors' - GP

An Oireachtas Joint Committee is to meet later to consider and make recommendations for legislative and policy change around assisted dying
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

07.44 27 Jun 2023

Share this article

Assisted dying 'a decision for...

Assisted dying 'a decision for people, not doctors' - GP

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

07.44 27 Jun 2023

Share this article

The decision of assisted dying is one that would be made by people and not doctors.

That's according to one GP, who was speaking as an Oireachtas Joint Committee on Assisted Dying is to meet later on Tuesday.

The committee is to consider and make recommendations for legislative and policy change relating to a statutory right to assist a person to end their life.


The committee will report to both Houses of the Oireachtas within nine months of its first public meeting.

Kildare GP and Assistant Adjuvant Professor in Public Health and Primary Care at Trinity College, Dr Brendan O'Shea, told Newstalk Breakfast the discussion is long overdue.

"This is an issue for a small, but important, number of people who are suffering from a number of different medical conditions," he said.

"It holds out the prospect that medical assistance in dying may become a choice for them in Ireland.

"We're quite behind the curve of affluent societies where this choice is already available for people who are approaching end of life in Canada, in Australia, in American states, in Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands and Portugal .

"This is an important committee and it's an important topic".

'Vast majority of doctors opposed'

Consultant liaison psychiatrist at Beaumont Hospital, Professor Siobhan McHale, said there is opposition to the planned legislation.

"I think it's important to say that all sides of this debate we have a common aim: the aim of living with dignity [and] of dying with dignity," she said.

"Our concern is [that] the vast majority of doctors in the professional groups are opposed to this legislation.

"The Irish College of Psychiatrists have produced a position paper opposing this legislation.

"Although this is relevant to a small number of patients, once this is introduced as legidation it actually becomes a decision and a choice that every single person in this country has to make".

Prof McHale said fear could also be a factor.

"We then are in a position - for every decision for terminal healthcare or end of life healthcare - we have to introduce for everyone the choice of, 'Do you want assisted living? Do you want to make the decision that you don't want to have the palliative care supports?'

"The fear that this breeds and leads to in our patients: we know that it's patients fear of what's ahead... that people choose assisted dying".

'One in 20 people who are dying'

Dr O'Shea said the choice is relevant to a very small minority.

"Let's say at in 19 out of 20 people who are dying, this isn't relevant," he said.

"We see this in all of the other societies where this has been introduced.

"When this is introduced as a choice for people who might need it, in the order of about one in 10 people consider it closely.

"Of that one in 10, about half of them might proceed to avail of the service if the service was available.

"So it becomes important maybe for about one in 10 to one in 20 of all people who are dying.

"It's not an issue for doctors... ultimately it's a decision for people, not for doctors," he added.

Main image: File photo shows a patient on a trolley in a hospital A&E. Picture by: Josie Elias / Stockimo / Alamy Stock Photo

Share this article

Read more about

Assisted Dying Austria Belgium Dr Brendan O'Shea Irish College Of Psychiatrists Legislation Newstalk Breakfast Oireachtas Joint Committee On Assisted Dying Professor Siobhan McHale The Netherlands

Most Popular