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“This ethics committee has no ethics at all,” said a protester
who took over the podium. “Who would hold a meeting
on Holy Thursday in Catholic Ireland to murder people?”
“Murder is murder”, the protesters shouted. “That’s the way Hitler started! — Man has no right to take a life.”
The lecture was cancelled within minutes of its opening.
On April 9, the evening of Holy Thursday, a lecture was scheduled at Cork University Hospital (CUH) in Ireland. Emeritus Professor Len Doyal professor of medical ethics at the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, was slated to speak on “Why Euthanasia should be legalized”.
Doyal is a proponent of voluntary and involuntary euthanasia. He advocates that doctors unilaterally decide to end the life of patients who are terminally ill and in great pain.
The speech, which was sponsored by Health Service Executive (HSE), caused controversy from its inception. In late March, a member of the HSE’s own forum, Kerry County Councilor, Brendan Cronin, called for the lecture to be cancelled saying he was “outraged by the decision.”
This outrage fanned into flames from the moment Doyal’s lecture commenced.
As professor Doyal was being introduced in Cork, an Irishman named Kierin, whose wife is terminally ill with cancer, approached the podium with the Irish Constitution in his hand and denounced Doyal’s speech as a criminal offense and against the law.
Father Paul Kramer, author of The Suicide of Altering the Faith in the Liturgy, who now resides in Ireland, then took the floor. Father Kramer walked straight up to Doyal and roared, “Nazi criminal! Get out of our country! Nazi eugenicist! Get out of our country!”
Father Kramer then turned to the crowd of about 200, many of whom had come to protest Doyal’s lecture, and announced, “We say no to Nazi eugenics”.
He turned back to Doyal and bellowed, “Nazi criminal! Get out of our country! Get out of our country!”
The hall immediately erupted with the chant, “Out! Out! Out!”
Security guards and police rushed into the hall. After a brief standoff, security escorted Doyal from the room. The speech was shut down before it started.
One eyewitness described the scene as “absolutely unbelievable” and “very highly charged.” Newspapers report Doyal was “visibly shaken” as he was escorted from the room.
Protesters at the event had plenty to say against Doyal and against Cork Hospital's allowing the speech to take place.
John O’Callaghan, one of the protest organizers, said “Professor Doyal wants involuntary euthanasia introduced. This is murder. We fear for the lives of the elderly, the ill, the disabled and the vulnerable. These people are costing our health service money, and what could be easier than to introduce involuntary euthanasia which would solve the problem of cost?”
Another anti-euthanasia protester said “The HSE will make us out to be religious zealots, but we are not. We are individual protesters here.”
Moira O’Regan from Cork said she was protesting on behalf of elderly people. “This lecture,” she said, “has nothing to do with providing care for people.”
Meanwhile, the “visibly shaken” Doyal, when asked for a comment by the Irish Daily Mail, said, “I do not wish to speak to anyone. I will write to the newspapers about what happened today.”
Three days later, the Sunday Times of London published Doyal’s lament. “I was there to debate, but the mob was beyond reason. I was compared to Hitler, called a Nazi and a murderer and there were people reciting the Rosary at me.”
“What happened at the event was not a protest”, Doyal charged, “the people weren’t protesting. It was an angry mob venting hate … What does this say about freedom of speech in Ireland?”
A number of newspapers employed the “freedom of speech” argument to disparage anti-euthanasia protesters.
“Don’t Let Mob Kill Freedom of Speech”, vented the Sunday Times.
“Euthanasia Protesters Attacked Free Speech”, headlined the Irish Independent.
“Young people in their 20s and 30s are shooting down free speech with the accuracy of a sniper”, cried the Irish Examiner.
On the night of the lecture, the Irish Examiner asked Father Kramer, who received his theological training at the Angelicum in Rome, about this very point. “This is a democratic republic”, the reporter said. “Don’t people have the right to freedom of speech?”
Father Kramer responded, “This is not constitutionally-protected freedom of speech. These people are advocating murder. It is a crime. It is not a legitimate discussion. They have no right to discuss such an issue as murdering people.”
Father Kramer later told CFN, “The Irish Examiner chose not to publish my view.”
Another newspaper, the Irish Daily Mail, printed Father Kramer’s forceful denunciation of the event. “What this man is advocating is a crime. In fact, it is terrorism. What he advocates — euthanasia — is a threat to our own lives.”
Father Kramer’s accusation of terrorism is not an over-statement. Senator Jim Walsh, from the Seanad (the Upper House of the Irish Parliament) voiced a similar complaint about the terror this discussion strikes into the hearts of the elderly.
“I am sure it (the euthanasia debate) will scare every patient in nursing homes throughout the country. It is scandalous and deplorable,” Walsh warned.
Senator David Norris, a pro-abortion Irish politician, slammed Senator Walsh’s defense of the elderly, claiming such comments were “a disgrace” and “a shame on the Senator”.
Yet the late Father William Smith, professor of moral theology at St. Joseph Seminary in Dunwoodie, New York, frequently warned about the so-called right-to-die euthanasia slogans in the United States. “The right to die”, said Father Smith, “will soon become the duty to die.”
Independent MEP Kathy Sinnot, who opposes euthanasia, and who did not commend the lecture being shouted down, attended the Cork event.
“I came to listen and to ask questions at the lecture’s end. I felt the core issue was the linking of euthanasia to the rationing of medical services.”
Elsewhere, Sinnot said she wants a debate on how people can be given better palliative care to ensure they don’t suffer when they are terminally ill. She said other ill people should be supported and their lives given “affirmation”.
“It is not a case of working out how best to kill people,” notes Sinnot, “it should be about working out how best to manage natural death without suffering.”
Sinnot argues that euthanasia is supported by some governments because it cuts the medical cost of caring for terminally-ill people.
This selling out of the terminally-ill was forcefully reiterated at the Cork lecture. Moments before the police arrived, one protester took over the podium to accuse CUH of betraying the “sick and old” people of Ireland.
“I have 30 pieces of silver to give the ethics committee on behalf of these people,” he said, “that’s very significant because Judas took 30 pieces of silver. They are selling out the sick and the old, and what I would say is that this ethics committee has no ethics at all. Who would hold a meeting on Holy Thursday in Catholic Ireland to murder people?”
Though Doyal claims he felt threatened by a mob “venting hate”, Father Kramer insists Doyal was never in any danger.
“If Doyal left the room ‘visibly shaken’”, Father Kramer told CFN, “he was afraid, as a pickpocket or a burglar is afraid when he’s caught in the act — not because of a threat, but because he was caught committing a crime.”
The Irish Examiner asked Father Kramer what he thought the protesters accomplished at the Cork lecture, claiming the debate will continue in Ireland elsewhere.
“When the battle is set in the battlefield,” Father Kramer answered, “we have to fight. We have stopped this discussion tonight and we will stop it again.”
In fact, the HSE stated Doyal’s lecture would not be rescheduled; Doyal himself complained that since the group stopped the lecture once, “they know now they can do it again”; and the Irish Examiner sobbed, “after yesterday’s farce [on Holy Thursday], a discussion on euthanasia in Ireland may be the only issue to have died.”
CFN telephone interview with Father Kramer;
“HSE is Criticized over Pro-Euthanasia Lecture”, Irish Catholic, March 25, 2009;
“Safety Issue Led to Decision, says HSE”, Irish Times, April 10, 2009;
“Rosary Chanting Protesters Force Euthanasia Talk to be Abandoned”, Irish Independent, April 10, 2009;
“Euthanasia Talk Ends in Seconds Amid Verbal Attacks”, Irish Examiner, April 10, 2009;
“Excues Me… You’re Talking about Killing of Patients. Get Out!”, Irish Examiner, April 10, 2009;
“Euthanasia Talk Shouted Down by Protesters”, Irish Daily Mail, April 10, 2009;
“Death Man Walking Out”, The Sun (England), April 10, 2009;
“Mercy Death’s Debate Silenced by ‘Mob’”, Sunday Times (London), April 12, 2009;
“Don’t Let Mob Kill Freedom of Speech”, Sunday Times, April 12, 2009;
“Euthanasia Protesters Attacked Free Speech”, Sunday Independent, April 12, 2009.