Submission to: The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.
From: The Humanist Association of Ireland
1 October 2015
The Humanist Association of Ireland seeks legislation to establish the right of individuals to avail of medical assistance, under certain conditions, in choosing their end-of-life.
The HAI is a non-religious organisation, supporting the right of individuals to make important decisions about their lives wherever possible. The HAI makes clear the distinction between end-of-life care and assisted dying. To refuse treatment is legal, on whatever grounds the patient chooses; the autonomy and bodily integrity of the individual must be respected. In order to establish what the wishes of an individual are, the HAI has been supportive of the creation of an ‘advance healthcare directive’, completed by people while in a sound mind, duly witnessed and preferably with medical advice. The AHD, or living will, has been made available to all via the web site www.livingwillstrust.com. The existence of such a document can be of great help to the medical profession and families to clarify the wishes of someone at a stage when they may not be in a position to state their wishes.
Without belief in a power higher than humanity itself, Humanists regard as paramount the quality of life and the ending suffering. Nothing belongs to individuals more than their own bodies and lives. Consequently, they should be the sole judge of making decisions about their life when the quality of that life has lost all meaning and suffering has become unbearable with no hope of abating. It is at this point in life when they should have the right to access medical help to bring their own life to an end.
We recognise that assisted dying is an emotive phrase. It pertains to terminal illness, suffering, pain, death, complete loss of function. Modern medicine can prolong life artificially and machines perform many functions once only open to the human body.
Nevertheless, there is no medical option which guarantees perpetual life or a pain-free end-of-life. It is at this point of life where, after clear and unequivocal wishes have been stated and recorded, that Humanist would want the medical option which would enable a dignified end to their suffering. The HAI agrees that certain pre-conditions should be met. For example, that there be agreement from at least two doctors from separate practices that there is no hope for remission or cure or that the patient regards his/her own life as unendurable. Once such conditions have been met, patients should be granted the right to make a decision to continue in that state or to bring their life to an end.
Nicolas Johnson, Director Chaplaincy Services
Humanist Association of Ireland
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