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Thursday 15 November 2018

Rosary-chanting protesters force euthanasia talk to be abandoned

Ralph Riegel and Senan Hogan

A CONTROVERSIAL euthanasia lecture was abandoned amid chaotic scenes last night while a senior British medical ethics expert had a private security escort for his own protection.

Prof Len Doyal was visibly shaken after his lecture on euthanasia couldn't even commence after he was heckled and jeered by more than 20 angry pro-life protesters who had taken up position in the Cork University Hospital (CUH) lecture theatre.

Protesters, some from the right-wing Youth Defence group, shouted that euthanasia was State-sponsored murder -- and dozens began loudly chanting the Rosary.

At one point, a protester shouted abuse directly into Prof Doyal's face. All efforts to introduce Prof Doyal for his lecture were drowned out by shouts and jeers.

Gardai were called to the scene but, a despite a heavy presence of officers, they did not intervene. Emptying the lecture theatre was ultimately left to hospital security guards.

The lecture was eventually cancelled -- with Prof Doyal escorted out by hospital security personnel for his own safety.

As he left, the respected British medical expert challenged the protesters over the right to free speech -- with dozens of people who attended the theatre also complaining about their activities.

One eye-witness described the scene as "absolutely unbelievable" and "very highly charged".

The lecture sparked national controversy when the Bishop of Cork & Ross, Dr John Buckley, slated euthanasia or the voluntary ending of life as wrong, saying: "The Lord alone is the giver of life and He alone has the right to decide when that life should end."

Ireland South MEP Kathy Sinnott (Independent) expressed outrage that the Health Service Executive (HSE) should have facilitated the CUH lecture.

Demonstrations outside CUH were mounted last night by Youth Defence and the Mother & Child Campaign. The controversy over the CUH lecture even reached the Seanad, with Senator David Norris accusing Senator Jim Walsh of "scaremongering".

Senator Walsh had said the CUH debate was both scandalous and deplorable.

"I am sure it (the euthanasia debate) will scare every patient in nursing homes throughout the country. It is scandalous and deplorable," he warned.

Sen Norris said such comments were "a disgrace" and "a shame on the senator."

Yesterday, such was the volume of queries over the lecture that the HSE had a recorded message on its telephone system -- stressing that neither the speaker nor the theme reflected the views or policies of the HSE, the hospital or its ethics forum.

CUH Ethics Forum Chairman, Dr Fergus Walsh, said: "We only wish to promote an active discussion about this controversial subject."

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