Good news from Ireland, at least for once. The Dublin Parliament’s Committee on Justice rejected a bill that would have introduced assisted suicide and euthanasia. It was definitely a result that could not be taken for granted, thanks both to the hard work of pro-life groups as well as to clear and decisive opposition from the medical profession.
The bill was put forward by an MP from People Before Profit, a small far-left formation. Last year, to some surprise, it won the initial support of some representatives of the governing coalition, including former Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and the Ministers of Health and Justice. A similar proposal had already been rejected in 2015.
However, after public consultation, the Committee on Justice decided not to proceed with the evaluation of the text and recommended that Parliament set up a special commission dedicated specifically to the issues of euthanasia and assisted suicide.
Of course, this is not a complete rejection. But, given the fact that parliamentary time has been slowed down by COVID-19, it will be difficult for a future special commission to complete this task before the end of the legislature; even less so if general elections are brought forward, which is expected.
There were two elements that produced this important decision: the strong opposition expressed by the interventions presented during the public consultationw–with doctors and professionals in the field in the lead–and the critical opinion of the Legal Office of the Parliament, which noted that the text of the bill had serious gaps and was possibly incompatible with the Constitution.
There were 1,400 contributions from citizens and organized groups throughout the public consultation process. The pro-life world, in all its different articulations, found support in professional medical organizations and associations fighting for the rights of disabled people.
All professional medical organizations have spoken out against the bill, given that it would have distorted the doctor-patient relationship and the very purpose of medicine, which is not to kill, but to care for the sick. The intervention of professionals in charge of palliative care, who face “borderline” situations on a daily basis, is significant.
While the pro-euthanasia front is boasts of apparent public support, this was not at all reflected in the responses given during the consultation. This is a sign that the pro-life world, despite the severe defeat it suffered in the 2018 abortion referendum, is still managing to organize effectively and have actual influence.
In recent years, Ireland has been moving in an opposite direction. Two popular referendums were held: redefining the concept of family, extending “marriage” to same-sex couples, and cancelling the article of the Constitution that defended prenatal life, thus liberalizing abortion. Moreover, when it comes to crucial issues such as assisted reproduction, surrogacy or gender ideology, the Irish political class of all colors has lately consistently expressed very liberal positions.
This “big little” victory of the pro-life front therefore marks a change of pace that gives some hope. Whether it is momentary, or more than that, remains to be seen. Some will say that the governing parties simply wanted to avoid division in advance of an election; perhaps to present a sweetened version of a similar law. Needless to say, we’ll see. But, at least for now, it’s good to celebrate.