Figures suggest 'right-to-die' bill wanted
Figures released this week indicate that 70 per cent of Irish people are in favour of right-to-die legislation.
This comes on the back of a plan by Junior Minister John Halligan to introduce a bill, proposing to legalise assisted suicide in Ireland.
While the figures suggest that quite a large majority of people are in favour of such legislation, there is bound to be a certain amount of opposition also, given that it is such an emotive issue.
How can any of us know how we would feel about assisted suicide unless we were facing a long and painful death?
It is very easy to say that something is wrong and that nobody should have a hand in the death of another, but seeing a loved one in endless agony and seeking a peaceful release might change a person's mind.
Also, to deny a loved one their final wish, if this is truly what they want would be a very difficult decision to make. I think this is a situation, much like the abortion debate, which stirs emotions and perhaps is a difficult issue about which to gauge accurate public opinion.
I'm not quite convinced that 70 per cent of Irish people would have their minds made up to this level on assisted suicide - but I do believe that the figure is high enough to have us debate legislation, and how best it could be drawn up.
Should it become legalised, a priority would be to put a mechanism in place to protect vulnerable people who might be preyed upon by relatives or carers who do not have their best interests at heart.
While this might not be a widespread concern, to have even one life wrongly taken, using assisted suicide as protection would be a travesty. Assisted suicide is not a road that everyone with a life limiting illness will choose to take and this is what makes it difficult to legalise it in any one case. However, for those who truly want to explore this option and who have the support of their loved ones to do so, they should be free to, without fear of prosecution.
To have the fear of Gardaí knocking on the door while a family is dealing with such deep personal trauma certainly wouldn't help the grieving process. Legalising assisted suicide will not mean that everyone with a terminal or life limiting illness will avail of the option, however it would give the choice to those who want it.