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A matter of life and death

The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality is currently studying a bill on ‘assisted dying’. The Private Member’s Bill was brought forward by Mr Gino Kenny, an Irish Solidarity-People Before Profit TD for Dublin Mid-West.

The Bill intends to give patients with a progressive and incurable terminal illness a choice to avail of ‘assisted dying’. It is a position that has been gaining some momentum over the last while, and has been discussed at times in both traditional and social media.

The debate and discussion around this life-and-death issue can be difficult. Gino Kenny TD has acknowledged that it is “a profoundly difficult subject, no matter what side you’re on”. He has called for “a respectful, rational and meaningful debate”.

This call is the context for the article below by Irish Jesuit theologian Dr Gerry O’Hanlon SJ. He is not directly addressing the concrete issues of this contentious debate. Rather, he is seeking to deepen and widen its parameters, in particular regarding the understanding of human dignity. He questions what appears to be unchallenged assumptions around the issue of assisted dying, particularly in relation to the dignity of each human being.

To this end, he argues that human dignity is not necessarily incompatible with suffering and pain, even when that pain and suffering is involuntary. Furthermore, he contends, human dignity cannot be reduced simply to personal autonomy or individual responsibility and choice. We are relational beings. Download the full article here » to read or print.