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Dying with Dignity Bill set for delay as Government wants special committee to examine issue

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The legislation would allow medical professionals assist terminally ill persons end their own life.

THE GOVERNMENT IS to table an amendment to Dying with Dignity Bill to allow a special committee to be set up to examine the issue.

The decision made today by Cabinet could delay the passage of Bill by up to a year.

At the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting last week, Fine Gael leader and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said he would be in favour of the establishment of a special Oireachtas Committee to look at the issue of assisted dying, similar to what was done on the Eighth Amendment. 

The Dying with Dignity Bill 2020 seeks to legislate for allowing medical professionals assist terminally ill persons end their own life should that be their stated intention. 

The Bill is being introduced by deputies Gino Kenny, Mick Barry, Richard Boyd Barrett, Paul Murphy and Bríd Smith and will go before the Dáil this Thursday.

The Green Party, Fine Gael, and Fianna Fáil had indicated that they would allow members a free vote on the issue. The parties have yet to clarify if a free vote will be given to members on the amendment which will place the Bill in the hands of a special committee.

The proposed legislation is also being backed by Sinn Féin, Labour and the Social Democrats.

However, the Rural Independents today spoke out against the Bill.

The idea of a Citizens Assembly on the issue has not been ruled out, however it is understood that the Tánaiste has said organising such an event in the midst of a pandemic would prove difficult.

Gino Kenny has said he is not opposed to the idea of an Assembly, but said has pointed out that politicians are elected to legislate.

He said delaying the issue to a special committee or a Citizens’ Assembly is merely “kicking the can” down the road.

He said there are situations where palliative care and hospice care will not ameliorate certain situations and certain illnesses, adding that a person should have a choice.

“This is totally unnecessary and a delaying tactic by the government,” Kenny said.

“The committee stage of the bills process would allow for testimony on the bill and this would allow for democratic discussion on the matter.

“We are legislators and we must deal with these difficult issues in the democratic forums that we have in the Houses of the Oireachtas. The government must withdraw their amendment.”

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