David Quinn and Dr Peter Boylan discuss the future of medical ethics in Ireland

David Quinn and Dr Peter Boylan appeared on The Last Word on Monday 29th May to discuss the decision by the Sisters of Charity to quit their hospitals.
David said that Ireland as a society had to decide whether in the future we would authorise doctors to kill their patients under certain circumstances (via abortion or assisted suicide). David put this point to Dr Boylan. You can read below Dr Boylan’s response to David and the rest of the exchange between them.

Peter Boylan: I think David’s views have to be respected. A way around difficulties that people might have with procedures that are very common in maternity care would beto  fund what is known as faith-based hospitals, which there are very plenty of in the United States. You have to be careful that there hasn’t been a preponderance of these that limits people’s choice in a secular, multicultural, multi-religious, and no religious society. So, I think that people’s religious views have to be respected but that was one of the difficulties, as I said, where the interface between obstetrics and Catholic Church teaching is at odds but there is no reason why … Mount Carmel was, for example, a Catholic ethos maternity unit, the Bons in Cork was. They both closed, so there isn’t one left in the country at the moment, but if a particular religious order wants to have its own ethos, then I think they need to fund the hospital as a private hospital, as the the Bons and Mount Carmel were. Not state funded.

David QuinnThat’s beside my point, Peter, because I was saying that whether a hospital is pro-choice or pro-life is something to be considered with or without the Catholic Church, with or without Christianity, and with or without these [religious] Orders. That is the question we need to consider quite apart from the Catholic Church: What’s to be the governing ethos of the publicly funded, and in some cases State-run hospitals? So obviously society has to have an input there and needs to decide whether we want the governing ethos of those hospitals to continue to be “first do not kill” because obviously, we see for example in Belgium and in the Netherlands hospitals carrying out assisted suicide, which plainly takes the life of the patient. This is what happens.
So to me that is not good patient care by definition. Abortion on the kind of scale that is carried out in Britain is not good patient care either. It obviously doesn’t care about the interest of the unborn patient. The pro-choice ethos very much violates it. I am
talking as well of the other end of the life spectrum, so of a patient who might be old and infirm [and is killed by lethal injection], very much violates what is to me good medical ethics, whether or not [we consider] the Catholic Church.

PB:   David’s [inaudible] …… does violates his ethical beliefs and his deeply held faith beliefs and there is a lot of people who would share his views. But equally there is a lot of people who do not share his views.

DQ: The Hippocratic Oath goes back before Christianity, Peter.

PB: Of course it does and I practice according to it. I think in a modern democratic society, these issues are debated in all societies, and almost every society in Europe has dealt with this in a very adult and humane way, where everybody’s views are respected. And just because my views are different from David’s, doesn’t mean that his views are correct and mine are not, or vice versa.  If mine are correct or not, it really depends on your point of view, on how you are brought up, and what your belief system is. I think we need to respect all of them.

DQ: You can’t have a belief that leads to the killing of patients, which is what is happening in Dutch and Belgium hospitals and increasingly around the world. That thing seems to me a total corruption of medical ethics, to allow the precept “yes, you can kill your patients under certain circumstances” to prevail. And this doesn’t come down to subjective opinions. It is wrong in itself to take the life of a patient even if they are requesting it themselves.

PB: I think that’s a view held by very many people and it has to be respected but I think the other views have to be respected as well. 

You can listen to the item here