That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to make provision for assistance in achieving a dignified and peaceful end of life to qualifying persons and related matters.
I am introducing the Dying with Dignity Bill 2020 on behalf of Solidarity-People Before Profit. I do not do this in jubilation but with determination that this very personal issue is discussed openly and rationally. If enacted, this Bill will make legal and medical provision for achieving a peaceful end to life for those with a progressive and incurable terminal illness. Compassion, empathy and humanity should be at the heart of this debate. From the outset, the most important voice in the debate is that of the individual who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. That individual should have a choice to make a fully conversant decision on how his or her condition progresses and concludes. The debate should not be framed as an alternative to palliative and hospice care in any way. This can be a very difficult conversation for a society. Whatever one's views on voluntary assisted dying, all views should be respected and listened to with mutual and collective respect.
This Bill would not have been possible were it not for the incredible bravery of the late Marie Fleming. I never met Marie, but I know that if she were sitting in the Visitors Gallery now, she would be willing us on. Before Marie passed away in 2013, the Supreme Court stated in its ruling that there was no impediment in this Parliament to legislating for voluntary assisted dying. I also wish to mention Tom Curran, Marie Fleming's partner. Without Tom's guidance and input to this Bill, it would not have been possible. I also thank the former Independent Deputy, John Halligan, who introduced this Bill in 2015. I appeal to the public and fellow Deputies to give thought and reflection to this Bill over the coming weeks. If there is not a clear party or Government position to let this Bill progress, I ask the Taoiseach and party leaders to allow a free vote or vote of conscience on this issue.
In the most profoundly difficult circumstances people should have a choice to have a dignified and peaceful end to their lives on their own terms when the pain and suffering become unbearable. Assisted dying is not about ending life but about ending suffering when a person no longer has the option of living. They have not made that decision. It has been taken out of their hands.