The introduction of assisted dying laws could be a “slippery slope” that sees the right to die becoming a duty to die, Shane Coleman has warned.
He was speaking after People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny, who tabled his Dying with Dignity bill in the Dáil over two years ago accused the government of dragging its feet on establishing a special Oireachtas Committee on the issue.
The establishment of a committee was recommended two months ago; however, while Kerry TD Michael Healy Rae has been appointed to chair it, the Government has yet to nominate TDs to sit on it.
Yesterday, Deputy Kenny wrote to the Ceann Comhairle expressing his frustration on “the lack of progress" on the committee.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, presenter Shane Coleman said he was concerned the legislation could put Ireland on a slippery slope to something more sinister.
“I totally respect the other side of the argument,” he said. “I think this is a really complex area and I understand the arguments in favour of assisted dying.
“There are people who are in intractable pain and who are terminally ill and I can understand why they want this option available – but it makes me nervous I have to say.
“I’m listening as well to the College of Psychiatrists in Ireland and hearing them expressing fear that it won’t just be people in those situations who will look for assisted dying.
“That it will be people who are depressed, people who are lonely, people who are in fear. People who don’t want to be a burden.”
Duty to die
He agreed that there is a concern the right to die could become a duty to die.
“I know people say, ‘oh you can put in place safeguards’, but that can be done very subtly in ways that are impossible to measure.
“I’m nervous about it, I have to say – the introduction of it.”
His fellow presenter Ciara Kelly said she was slowly becoming in favour of the idea – after being against the prospect for her entire career as a doctor.
“Over time, and maybe the remove of not being a medic anymore, I have come to see it more and more from the person’s point of view.
“From the person who is perhaps terminally ill, who is in intractable pain, who is in fear of their end and would like control, would like autonomy, would like that choice.
“I think those things are valid.”
She warned that Deputy Kenny’s bill is “not suitable” in its current form.
“This bill is too loose,” she said. “It has too few caveats in it; it has no timescales for example.
“So this is not the bill to fix assisted dying in this country that would be my view but I do believe in certain instances, the right thing, the compassionate thing and the decent and humane thing is to give [people a choice].”
Asked how we might do that safely she said: “I think we tiptoe our way through it really, really carefully with good legislation and very, very strong medical ethics.”
Dying with Dignity
Shane warned that the introduction could be a slippery slope with unintended consequences.
“I just think the problem is setting where that line is and ensuring it is never crossed,” he said. “I just think that’s impossible to do. I think once you open that door …”
The Dying with Dignity bill is currently at its third stage in Dáil Éireann.