HAI e-Newsletter August 2014

e-Newsletter August 2014
In this issue:

First Sunday Meeting Report – July 6
Judge Catherine McGuinness, Chair of the National Council of the Forum on End-of-Life, gave a talk on the Think Ahead concept1 which grew out of the work of the Irish Hospice’s Forum on End-of-Life in Ireland 2 deliberations.   The National Council of the Forum on the End-of-Life is concerned principally with the need to legislate for and organise practical matters for people so that they can approach the end of their lives with confidence that their wishes will be respected.
Judge McGuinness talked about the idea of an advance healthcare directive3 which would allow people to set out their wishes about what procedures they would not like to have done if they are unable to communicate with their doctors.  It would not allow them to demand particular treatments, as these depend on what services are available from hospitals and the health services generally.
The Oireachtas Committee on Justice is considering legislation on this issue. The new provision would enable mentally competent persons over 18 to make a legally binding advance health directive.The directive can nominate another person to act on the person’s behalf to ensure that their wishes are carried out. Judge McGuinness made it clear that the directive would not include the right to euthanasia or assisted suicide as these are illegal in Ireland at present. The directive would allow the patient to refuse treatment against medical advice, even if the treatment might have prevented their death.  
Fundamental to the experience of the end of life is the human need for respect, empathy, care and kindness. Unfortunately, at the time of severe illness, when a person cannot communicate, decisions are often made very quickly with perhaps more concern for the wishes of relatives than for the person’s own wishes.
Most people prefer to die in their own homes surrounded by their friends and family; however most people actually die in hospital, often surrounded by noisy machines and busy medical and nursing staff.  Judge McGuinness spoke of the need to allow people to die at home, and also the need to improve conditions in hospitals so that the building and rooms speak of comfort and light.
The main issue that Think Ahead deals with is our reluctance to discuss our own death with our friends and family. It is almost as if we hope it won’t actually happen to us, or that we are afraid of bringing it upon us by talking about it. There are many financial, legal and funeral arrangements to be made when you die; these may cause major and long-lasting problems for your relatives and friends who may have different opinions as to your wishes.
The practical response of the Council on the End of Life has been to produce the Think Ahead form. This provides a means for people to record their wishes and collect important information. The form has five sections: key information, care preferences including an advance healthcare directive, legal issues, financial issues and what to do when I die. An important issue is to consider appointing someone with an enduring power of attorney, so that practical financial decisions may be made while you are still alive but are incapacitated.
In trials4  in Kildare, Louth and Limerick, it has been shown that the Think Ahead form is very helpful in encouraging people to talk about their concerns about death with their family (83%) and a majority found it fairly easy to use.
The Forum on the End of Life has not approached the subject of euthanasia or assisted suicide and is unlikely to do so due to its origins in the Hospice movement;  however the Council intends to study these matters at least.
 
Questions from the audience brought up the following points:
It was suggested that there do not seem to be any non-religious hospices in the Republic 5. (However this reporter notes that the Foyle Hospice 6 in Derry and the other hospices in Northern Ireland 7 appear to be non-religious. This may be because of sensitivities in Northern Ireland where non-denominational public services are considered normal.)
The practice in Ireland seems to be that medical staff will ask an incapacitated patient’s relatives for guidance on what is the course of action to take regarding the balance between quality of live and extension of life; in the USA advance health care directives are normal. Part of the difficulty in legislating for directives is that an elderly person with little support and perhaps with burdened relatives (who might prefer to be unburdened) may make a directive under duress.
Another issue is the fear medical staff have of being sued if they administer enough morphine to keep the patient comfortable, which can have the side-effect of shortening life. One member told of the delight of a nurse when given permission to administer such medicine to the member’s neighbour who was near death.
From a chaplaincy point of view there are many ways to celebrate the life of a person which respect the wishes of the deceased and their relatives; there is certainly room for the Irish wake complete with story-telling, tears, laughs and a drop of the good stuff.
Judge McGuinness’s talk was very well received by the meeting which was full to the doors, attracted no doubt by the importance of the topic and the reputation of the speaker.
 
Report by Peter Deeney

First Sunday Meeting – August 3
The next First Sunday Meeting will take place on Sunday August 3rd from 4pm to 6pm at Buswell’s Hotel, Molesworth St, Dublin 2.
 
The title for this month’s meeting is How Humanists Deal With Life Crises.  It will be chaired by Pat Coyle.
The topic is a follow-up to the HAI December meeting at which we discussed how humanists can deal with life events such as death, divorce and separation outside the framework that exists in organised religions.
All are welcome to attend.

Contributions from Members
If you have constructive comments or feedback on this e-Newsletter, Board meetings, the organisation in general, and/or are able to contribute to the goals of the HAI in any way, please let us know.
And if you have news items, stories, or links you would like to share with other HAI members, please send them for possible inclusion in the e-Newsletter by the 27th of the month.
We would very much welcome your contributions!
The email address is [email protected]

The National Day of Commemoration
Photograph reproduced by kind permission of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.
The Humanist Association of Ireland received an invitation to The National Day of Commemoration held on July 13th at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin. This occasion is held on an annual basis in honour of all those Irishmen and Irishwomen who died in past wars or on service with the United Nations. I went along with Director of Ceremonies, Brian Whiteside. We were there as guests, rather than as participants.
I hadn’t been to the Royal Hospital Kilmainham before, though Brian has conducted a number of weddings and funerals there. I was very impressed with the building and the quadrangle where the ceremony took place. The event started just before 11am and was broadcast live on RTE television.
Proceedings began with soldiers marching through and around the quadrangle. Then representatives of the main faith groups arrived in procession to the centre of the quad. We could see them on big screens, but were also close enough to see them over and between the guests in front of us. They were followed by members of the Council of State and then members of the government led in by Joan Burton. We were asked to stand for the arrival of the Taoiseach who walked in accompanied by members of the three armed forces – air, land and sea – well I’m guessing that’s who they were. We then watched the President’s car arrive on the big screen and he and Mrs Higgins walked into the quad.
Enda Kenny stood, welcomed everyone and invited the faith representatives to say their piece. This they did in the following order: Jewish, Methodist, Romanian Orthodox, Presbyterian, Church of Ireland, Roman Catholic and Islamic. There was music featuring an army band and a soprano soloist interspersed with the contributions.
When the faith contributions completed the Taoiseach stood and invited the President to lay a wreath on behalf of the people of Ireland. The President laid the wreath and this was followed by a minute’s silence. The silence was broken by the firing of a canon, which in turn was followed by a rendering of the Last Post.
Almost over, and I got my first opportunity to participate – having been surrounded by people saying “Amen” at the end of various prayers, I managed to join in with the singing of the National Anthem.
The closing flourish was a fly past by four planes flying west to east – impressive.
The dignitaries made their way from the quadrangle to the reception rooms and we all followed.
Here Brian and I got some tea and coffee and then made our way around the room speaking to and shaking hands with several people over the next hour or so. Among them Tánaiste, Joan Burton; Alex White, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Heather Humphries, Minister for Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht; the President’s wife Sabina Higgins; Minister for Public Expenditure & Reform, Brendan Howlin; Attorney General, Máire Whelan; Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald; civil servants: Art O’Leary, who was involved in the Constitutional Convention and is now working with the President and Mary Murphy from the Department of the Taoiseach, and also Irish Times Religious Affairs Correspondent, Patsy McGarry.
It was an enjoyable, and, I think, useful occasion. Brian and I agreed we would ask the Board to consider whether we should write to the Department of the Taoiseach to request that the HAI be included as a participant in the ceremony next year so that we can contribute to this occasion on behalf of the non-religious community.
Report by Siobhán Walls, HAI Chairperson

Humanist Literature Review
Just two publications are to hand this month, the June and July editions of ‘Ethical Record: The Proceedings of the Conway Hall Ethical Society’.
The June edition has an excellent 4-page pull-out (one sheet of A4) which is a concise and useful summary of Humanism pitched at schools, ideal for teachers preparing lessons and students doing projects. It shows what Humanists maintain and value, and concludes with a glossary of relevant terms.
The June edition also has a lecture on the Dead Sea Scrolls in which Philip Davies notes that the almost thousand manuscripts are ‘the only contemporary writings preserved in Hebrew from the lifetimes of John the Baptist, Jesus and Paul’ and so they ‘can illuminate the religious culture of their times like no other source’.
An article by Brian Moore looks at ‘War Criminals, Refugees and the UK’, tracing key moments from the ancient laws of war, through the 1945 Treaty of London, the 1984 Torture Convention, and the 1998 Treaty of Rome.
Another article quotes Dawkins’ assertion that ‘It’s rather pernicious to inculcate into children a view of the world which includes supernaturalism’.
Dan Thea’s lecture on Ethics in African Wars of Liberation provides a fresh perspective on the sorry history of the colonisation of Africa by European powers from the 350-year-long slave trade to the independence of former African colonies in the last century.
July’s edition’s best article, I suggest, is, ‘Classic Liberal-Individualism and the Contemporary Western World’ by Tom Rubens. It traces the shift from unquestioning acceptance of ideas to thinking for oneself, starting with Bacon and Descartes in the 17th century, and later such thinkers as John Stuart Mill, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and Ibsen.
Report by Joe Armstrong

News Bytes
From the Irish Times
An interesting take on the gay cake controversy up North
The UN asks Ireland to explain how it will  protect non-Christian children in schools?
From the Richard Dawkins Foundation website
From the Atheist Ireland website
From the Educate Together Website
Press release on the UN’s report on the lack of access to secular education in Ireland
From The Society Pages website
The Meath Chronicle did a profile of celebrant and chaplain Joe Armstrong in their August 2014 monthly magazine.

Book Now!  All Ireland Humanist Summer School 2014
Spice up your summer and come to the Summer School on Humanism and Sexuality!  
29th to 31st August in Carlingford
Places are still available – the booking form is on the HAI website
Speakers include Peter Tatchell, Diana Brown, Tom Inglis and Roy Brown.
Accommodation  must be booked by attendees themselves, and you are advised to book early as Carlingford is a very popular destination.

HAI 21st Celebration Conference 11th & 12th October 
The HAI is celebrating its 21st Birthday with a conference on primary education, asking if the system is fit for the 21st century.
There is no fee for the conference, but booking is essential as places are limited.
The programme and booking form are available now on the HAI website

Local Humanist Groups
Síle Headen is interested in setting up a new local Humanist group for members in Laois, Offaly, Carlow, Kilkenny and Kildare.  If you are interested, please get in touch with Síle at 
[email protected] or 087 7704946.
Ann Brennan is interested in setting up a new group for members living in the South-East region.  Her contact details are [email protected] or 086 0680444.
Isolde Carmody would like to gauge interest in setting up a North-West local group, covering Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim and Roscommon.  She would be happy to coordinate with others if there is interest.  Her contact details are [email protected] or 086 8820445.
A group of people interested in setting up a new local Humanist group in Cork have met twice recently.  Details of further meetings are on http://corkhumanists.weebly.com/ or you can contact Geraldine O’Neill on 086 812 8892.
North Coast Humanists meet every second Tuesday of the month at 6. 30 pm in the foyer of Lodge Hotel, Coleraine. New faces are welcome. For more information, contact: [email protected]  or 07818036404.
The Mid-West Humanists group includes people from Limerick, Clare, and Tipperary who meet on the third Wednesday of each month at 20:00 in Limerick – the Absolute Hotel, Sir Harrys Mall, Limerick. Meeting notice at www.midwesthumanists.com. For more information contact Peter O’Hara on 086 8155102 or email [email protected].
Serving Humanists in Galway and surrounding areas, Humanists West meet in Galway city on the last Sunday of each month. The meetings start at 12 noon at the OSLO Gastro Bar- Micro Brewery, 226 Upper Salthill.. For more information contact Garry O’Lochlainn on [email protected] or 087 2222726.

Living Wills
Advanced Healthcare Directive
Advance directives are written legal documents by which patients express their wishes about the kind of health care they want to receive in the event they become unable to make their own treatment decisions. This usually means if he or she is physically or mentally incapacitated or otherwise unable to makes these desires known. They are designed to allow competent patients the opportunity to guide future health care decisions. Advance directives include living wills and medical powers of attorney, sometimes called durable powers of attorney. It takes the decision away from family members, thus reducing their stress at a vulnerable time.
More information and downloads are available from http://www.worldrtd.net/organization/living-wills-trust-lwt or contact Daphne Wynne, 01 2802879, for further information.
Humanist Association of Ireland  •  34B Royal Terrace West  •  Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin Ireland
http://humanism.ie
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