Wednesday 31 January 2024

Irish Church says new medical guide is paving the way for euthanasia

According to the chairperson of the Council for Life of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, there are “numerous defects” in a new ethics guide of the Irish Medical Council, which, among other things, removes a line barring medical staff from taking part in the ‘deliberate killing’ of a patient.

“I find myself wondering if this is an oversight, or is it the case that the Medical Council has now decided that it is acceptable for doctors to take part in the deliberate killing of a patient?” Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin said in a statement.

“Even if assisted suicide were to be legalized, for example, that of itself would never make the killing of patients ethical,” he said.

The bishop noted the sections on Assisted Human Reproduction and Abortion, which were in the 8th edition of the Guide, have disappeared from the 9th edition. Both activities have been legalized in the Republic of Ireland.

“This would seem to suggest that the Medical Council does not see these very significant areas of activity as involving any ethical questions or risks.  Is this simply because the law in these areas has changed.  Have actions which were previously unethical, and quite simply ‘bad medicine,’ suddenly become ethical because they are now legal?” Doran said.

“Under the heading of Conscientious Objection, I note that the Guide reflects recent legislation on Abortion, in that it requires doctors to ‘make such arrangements as may be necessary to enable the patient to obtain the required treatment.’  I am not sure how it makes sense ethically to require a doctor to assist a patient to access a procedure which the doctor, herself or himself, regards as unethical,” the bishop said.

He said these issues do not only affect doctors, and also impact the common good of our society by “radically redefining what is ‘good’ for us all.”

The bishop added that he has written to the president of the Medical Council seeking clarification, “but my letter has received neither a reply nor even an acknowledgement.”

President Dr. Suzanne Crowe has said the Medical Council does not have a position on assisted dying, and the change to the ethical guide has been misinterpreted in a statement to the Irish parliament.

The Republic of Ireland government is currently examining the possibility of legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide.

“The guide states that the medical profession must comply with, and operate within, the law. As per legislation, it is illegal for all individuals, including doctors, to take part in the deliberate killing of a person, or to assist a person to end their own life,” Crowe said.

“The removal of this paragraph was not the Medical Council taking a stance or paving the way for any possible future change, and should not be interpreted this way,” she continued.

The Iona Institute, a conservative organization that supports traditional values in Ireland, has described the new addition of the medical code as a “momentous move” that “clearly paving the way for euthanasia.”

“No longer telling doctors that they cannot take part in the deliberate killing of patients is not medical ethics, it is the opposite,” the Institute said.

“It is shameful that the Medical Council has gone down this path, clearly with the blessing of the Minister for Health. Hopefully the doctors of Ireland will push back against this incredibly retrograde step,” it said.