Senator Rónán Mullen

Senator Mullen seeks assurances on ‘Assisted Dying’ Committee scope

Senator Ronan Mullen

Committee can recommend for or against changing policy on euthanasia/assisted dying  

Independent Senator Rónán Mullen this evening welcomed clarification from the ‘Committee on Assisted Dying’, of which he is a member, that the Committee has full freedom to recommend against the introduction of assisted suicide if it sees fit.

Senator Mullen wrote to Committee Chairperson, Michael Healy Rae, in late March, pointing out that the Committee’s terms of reference appeared to suggest that it could only make recommendations in favour of introducing an assisted suicide regime.

The terms of reference mandate the Joint Committee “to consider and make recommendations for legislative and/or policy change in relation to a statutory right to assist a person to end their life (assisted dying)”.

“This wording implied that the Joint Committee must consider and make recommendations for legislative and/or policy change,” Senator Mullen wrote. “This would appear to preclude the possibility that the Joint Committee could recommend against any legislative and/or policy change in this area.”

“However, it is clear from this evening’s meeting of the Committee that the majority of members do not think that we can only go one way on this issue. Nor did people think that it was the intention of the Dáil and Seanad to fetter us in this way or to present us with a pre-ordained direction of travel.”

“I welcome the clarification at this evening’s meeting that there is not such a pre-determined outcome intended. I look forward now to a careful study by all members of the Committee of the international experience of euthanasia and assisted suicide, the risks which a change in the law would pose to the most vulnerable people in our society, and the wider social consequences of permitting one person to deliberately end, or aid in ending, the life of another.”

Senator Mullen made clear to the Committee his preference that the Committee use the phrase ‘Assisted Dying / Assisted Suicide’ in reference to its work, noting that this approach has also been taken in Britain by the House of Commons Committee on Health and Social Care, which is currently carrying out an inquiry into “Assisted dying/assisted suicide”.

“Some say the term ‘assisted suicide’ is judgemental of others but it has to be acknowledged that those who want a change of policy and law are looking to change the law criminalising the assisting of a suicide. Using the term ‘assisted dying’ is frankly euphemistic and masks the fact that serious social change is being proposed,” Senator Mullen said.

“The fairest, and least misleading approach, would be to include both terms, and that is how I intend to refer to the Committee for the duration of its work,” Senator Mullen said.


For more information contact Senator Rónán Mullen on 087 2446911 or 01 6183930.