herald

Saturday 10 December 2016

What would you do if a family member asked you to help them end it all?

I can't begin to imagine being asked to help someone to die.

What I would do or say if a member of my family or a close friend said they simply couldn't take it anymore and begged me to help bring them some peace or dignity by helping to end their life?

I don't know what I'd say or do. It's such a moral and ethical dilemma. The person asking would probably frame it as being humane and yet you'd be helping to kill them, if you said yes.

Bar the moral dilemma and emotional stress, what is still unclear is where you'd stand legally if such a situation came up in your family. Suicide has been decriminalised here but there is no constitutional right to assisted suicide.

In other words, you could spend 14 years behind bars if you helped someone do something, that if they did alone, would be legal.

decent

There are all sorts of questions and uncertainties in the wake of Gail O'Rorke's acquittal this week of assisting her friend to end her own life.

What is not at issue is that Ms O'Rorke was an exceptionally decent person and a great friend. Nor that the travel agent at the centre of the case had to act once he was informed of the booking, lest he himself be open to criminal proceedings.

But if you take the you can't help someone take their own life law to its extremes and pay for a taxi, say, that brings someone to the airport to travel to Dignatas in Switzerland, have you broken the law?

Should they set up a desk after security at airports where they can ask: "Business? Pleasure? Suicide?"

A bill will be coming before the Dáil soon setting out how the law should be amended.

It will no doubt be informed by the case of Gail O'Rorke and previously that of Marie Fleming.

But what the laws can't do is help us personally deal with the moral and ethical dilemma of helping to kill someone because they've asked you to.

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