THE criminal ban on assisted suicide is needed to protect terminally and incurably ill patients, the country's leading end-of-life medical organisation has said.
The Irish Association of Palliative Care (IAPC), which previously warned against any moves to legalise voluntary euthanasia, has welcomed the decision by a three-judge High Court to uphold Ireland's statutory ban on assisted suicide.
It comes after Marie Fleming (59), pictured, who is terminally ill with multiple sclerosis, lost a court case to allow her assisted suicide.
Ms Fleming, who is in the final stages of the illness, wants to end her life at her Wicklow home without the fear that her partner Tom Curran might be prosecuted, should he help her die.
IAPC chairperson Dr Regina McQuillan, a consultant in palliative medicine at the Beaumont Hospital and St Francis Hospice, said any relaxation on the ban on assisted suicide could place pressures on vulnerable groups.
"Although the court recognised the acute personal distress of Ms Fleming, we agree it is not possible to allow for assisted suicide without exposing others to risk," she said.
The IAPC, which endorses the right of competent, informed patients to refuse medical treatment, says palliative care should not involve any action or treatment which is designed to cause a patient's death.
In a discussion paper on voluntary euthanasia, the IAPC said that individual autonomy is not absolute and must be balanced with consideration of the needs of society as a whole.
In her action, Ms Fleming said the ban on assisted suicide was unconstitutional and in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights as, she claimed, it violates her rights to dignity, privacy and autonomy.
The grandmother also said it was discriminatory as an able-bodied person is allowed to take their own life.