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Irish teenager Donal Walsh, who passed away from cancer in 2013 leading his mother, Elma, to become an advocate for pro-life palliative careDonalWalshLiveLife

(LifeSiteNews) — On October 10, Elma Walsh, mother of Irish teenager Donal Walsh who lost his long battle with cancer in 2013, strongly urged the Joint Committee on Assisted Dying to reject any potential bill that proposes assisted suicide in Ireland. Elma Walsh told the committee: “I fear what this committee could set in motion, because if it removes the present legal requirement that Doctors do what they can to save lives, the value of life will be significantly reduced.” 

The Republic of Ireland is currently considering legalizing assisted suicide for the terminally ill. Since Jan 24, 2023, a parliamentary committee has been established to discuss the legal and ethical issues of assisted suicide as well as the practicalities of introducing such a law in Ireland.

According to Ireland’s national parliament website Oireachtas: “The Joint Committee on Assisted Dying was established to consider and make recommendations for legislative and policy change related to a statutory right to assist a person to end his, her or their life and a statutory right to receive such assistance. The Joint Committee’s work may include an exploration of how provision for assisted dying might operate in Ireland; an examination of safeguards relating to the provision for assisted dying; an examination of the constitutional, legal and ethical issues relating to such a provision; and identification of possible unintended consequences of such a provision.”

Addressing the parliamentary committee on assisted suicide in Dublin, Elma spoke about her son’s brave battle with cancer and how he valued his life right until the end.  

“Our son Donal came to national prominence in 2013 as he fought his final battle with cancer. Having your son die from cancer as a 16-year-old is the exception in life, but from the time Donal was diagnosed terminal, he lived with dying with the help of his palliative care team.” 

Elma, who is from County Kerry, spoke about the important role palliative care played in Donal’s last days and months. She told the committee: 

Palliative care should not be underestimated in this country. This type of care is focused on providing relief from the symptoms & stress of a terminal illness. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient & the family. This is what it did for Donal and ourselves, in Donal’s final and most important challenge. It doesn’t hasten death. Palliative care is a way of easing people into their final most important struggle.

If we neglect palliative care or turn it into something that it isn’t, by linking it with euthanasia, it will be to the detriment of the living. Palliative care provides opportunities for making memories & enjoying what time we have left with family while knowing our time is short.

During his short life, Donal became a prominent public activist for suicide prevention in Ireland. 

“Society must promote hope, assisted suicide is a statement of no-hope. Palliative care allowed Donal to spread a message of hope and reduce suicides. Telling young people that their life itself is valuable, no matter how uphill it may seem at the time. As Donal said, ‘Everybody has their own Mountain to Climb.’ Legalizing assisted dying at the same time is to bring about a clash in society. Life is whole from beginning to natural end. It’s valuable no matter our age or circumstances. We can all help fight against suicide by turning our back on assisted suicide. Our lives are for sharing to the end,” Elma told the committee. 

Elma concluded her evidence to the committee with a message of hope:

Life is whole, from beginning to natural end. It’s valuable no matter our age or circumstances. 

We can all help fight against suicide by turning our back on assisted suicide. Our lives are for sharing to the end. 

If Donal had taken a euthanasia drug either of the two times he was told he would not live for long more, suicides in Ireland would not have dropped. This is a potential that would have been lost. 

All people with long term illness have potential to change and improve the lives of family and friends, as long as they live. That is a message of hope.

It is believed that Donal’s courageous suicide prevention activism may have resulted in a drop in suicides in Co. Kerry during his life and after his death.

While addressing pilgrims at Knock Basilica in August, Elma revealed that the recently deceased South Kerry coroner, Terence Casey, had noted that he had dealt with no teenage suicide for four years after Donal spoke out. 

“While he could not attribute this directly to Donal, he said Donal was the major catalyst in the reduction of suicides across Ireland,” Elma said.

Donal inspired many people in Ireland and beyond. In the months before he died, the 16-year-old wrote about his cancer journey and his faith in God in a beautiful piece titled, Climbing God’s Mountains.  

I’ve grown fully in both body and mind by climbing God’s mountains. 

I live in a part of the world that is surrounded by mountains. I can’t turn my head without finding a bloody hill or mountain and I suppose those were God’s plans for me. To have me grow up around mountains and grow climbing a few too. And that’s exactly what I’ve done, I may have grown up in body around them but I’ve fully grown and matured in mind climbing his mountains. 

He’s had me fight cancer three times, face countless deaths and losses in my life, he’s had my childhood dreams taken off me but at the end of the day, he’s made me a man. 

I am always called brave, heroic, kind, genuine, honorable and so many other kind compliments, but I have to try and explain to everyone why I seem to reject them. I have never fought for anyone but myself, therefore I cannot be brave or heroic, I’ve only been kind because my religion has taught me so.

The Donal Walsh LiveLife Foundation, set up in his memory, seeks to raise funds to tackle teenage suicide and support palliative care provision for young people.