Humanist UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson has today given evidence to the Special Oireachtas committee on assisted dying in the Republic of Ireland.
Responding to a callout for international expertise on assisted dying, Andrew offered the committee the humanist case for adopting the most compassionate and dignified assisted dying law possible, drawing on 80 years of global evidence and Humanists UK’s expertise on the human rights grounding for assisted dying.
The compassionate case for reform
If assisted dying were to become legally recognised in Ireland, citizens of Northern Ireland – who are legally entitled to both UK and Irish citizenship – would most likely be able to make use of it.
In his remarks, Andrew set out the case that any assisted dying law should be based on relieving unnecessary suffering, and that adults of sound mind who are intolerably suffering from a physical, incurable condition should have this end-of-life choice.
Democratic process under way in Ireland
The Special Oireachtas Committee on Assisted Dying was formed in June 2023 to consider and make recommendations for legislative and policy change relating to the statutory right to assist a person to end their life and a statutory right to receive such assistance.
In 2020, the Dying with Dignity Bill was submitted to the Dáil, the lower house of the Oireachtas. The Bill would allow people with terminal illnesses the option of an assisted death. It received widespread public support and passed its second stage by 81 to 71 votes. However, in 2021, during the next stage, the Justice Committee chose not to proceed, instead suggesting a special committee look at the issue in depth. That is what is now happening.
The committee will submit its report in March 2024.
Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of Humanist UK, said:
‘The current status quo, where assisting someone to die can be regarded as manslaughter or murder, puts families in a desperate, inhumane position. They essentially have three options. They watch their loved one suffer, they take matters into their own hands, or they spend extortionate amounts fleeing their home country to an assisted dying clinic in Switzerland. These options are immoral.
‘Adults of sound mind who are intolerably suffering from an incurable, physical condition, and have a clear and settled wish to die should have the option of an assisted death. We hope that the Republic of Ireland gives a compassionate choice to the people who are suffering.’
For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Assisted Dying Campaigner Nathan Stilwell at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 07456 200033.
If you have been affected by the current assisted dying legislation, and want to use your story to support a change in the law, please email email@example.com
Read more about our campaign to legalise assisted dying in the UK.
Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 110,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.