Sunday 4 December 2016

Euthanasia for children a step too far - Curran

Published 30/04/2015 | 02:30

Tom Curran with his partner Marie Fleming
Tom Curran with his partner Marie Fleming

Ireland should not legalise euthanasia for terminally-ill children, right-to-die campaigner Tom Curran has said.

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Mr Curran's partner, Marie Fleming, died in December 2013, following a high-profile appeal against Ireland's assisted suicide laws.

She had suffered from severe MS and had been unable to end her own life.

Mr Curran has relentlessly petitioned policymakers to decriminalise assisted suicide in Ireland. However, he said legalising euthanasia for terminally-ill children with a desire to end their lives would be a step too far.

Children have not developed enough to make such a difficult decision, he said.

"My personal feeling on it is that it should be for rational, competent adults," he said.

"I know there are people who would say that's not being compassionate... that it discriminatory and excluding. But I think it's a situation where you have to draw the line somewhere."

Last year, Belgium became the first country in the world to remove any age restrictions on euthanasia, after an emotional debate which split the medical profession over the best way to treat a terminally ill child with a desire to end his or her life.

Despite last-minute pleas for a rethink from within Belgium, and as far away as Canada, parliament agreed with the doctors who argued that in rare cases of unbearable and irreversible suffering, children should have the same right as an adult to ask to die with dignity.

The decision must be agreed by the child's physician, and supported by a second, independent doctor.

In the Netherlands, euthanasia is legal for children over 12 if there is parental consent.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr Curran said while he would "love to think" new legislation allowing assisted suicide will be introduced in Ireland, the Government "don't have the bottle" to face up to such a contentious issue.

Independent TD John Halligan is set to introduce a Bill to remove criminal sanctions against a family member or doctor who assists a suicide.

The Waterford TD said there needed to be a "dignified, compassionate and thoughtful debate" on the issue.

But Mr Curran said: "They (the Government) say they're compassionate, and said they accepted Marie's individual case, but we're not prepared to look at the overall picture.

"Everybody gave their sympathy to Marie, but that isn't going to help other people in the future.

"It's such a strong moral issue. But polls have come out overwhelmingly in favour of having assisted dying for the terminally ill.

"Public opinion is behind it, so I can't understand what they're afraid of."

He added: "Being asked by a loved one to help them to die is probably the most difficult question anybody could ever be asked to answer."

Irish Independent

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