Press Release

Minister Máire Hoctor launches the Law Reform Commission’s Consultation Paper Bioethics: Advance Care Directives

Máire Hoctor, TD, Minister for Older People, today (Tuesday, 14 October 2008) launched the Law Reform Commission’s latest Consultation Paper, entitled,Bioethics: Advance Care Directives.

This Paper forms part of the Commission’sThird Programme of Law Reform 2008-2014,which was approved by the Government in December 2007.

An advance care directive sets out a person’s wishes about what should happen to them in the event of an incapacitating accident (such as a serious car crash) or illness (such as stroke or the onset of Alzheimer’s disease) that makes it impossible for them to communicate their wishes directly. An advance care directive can be written or verbal and, quite often, the person will also nominate another person to carry out their wishes; this other person is sometimes called a health care proxy.

This important Consultation Paper notes that the emergence of advance care directives arises from the great developments in modern medical technology. Medical advances allow lives to be saved in an increasing number of situations that were not possible a few decades ago.

The Paper arose from a project in the Commission’s Third Programmeto examine the extent to which certain aspects of bioethics require legal regulation, including issues such as advance care directives and certain feeding interventions in a medical care setting.

In the course of launching the Commission’s Consultation Paper, Minister Hoctor said that it was“important to emphasise that the Paper launched today does not deal with issues such as euthanasia or assisted suicide. Nor, indeed, does it make proposals allowing a person to refuse basic care. It does, however, seek to address complex legal and ethical issues, which are worthy of serious and informed consideration, and I welcome this Paper as a serious contribution to an important debate.”