The father of the scientific study of medicine was a Greek doctor called Hippocrates, who lived between 460 and 370 BCE. His innovative studies influenced the development of medicine as a serious science for many centuries.
He lived 400 years before the Christian era and was what we would call today a pagan. The Hippocratic Oath, which doctors signed up to until recent times when they graduated in medicine, is traditionally attributed to him.
In that ancient pagan oath, doctors swore that, in treating their patients, they would "first do no harm" (primum non nocere).
The oath referenced a number of other issues, not least a prohibition by a doctor on the administration of a poison to anybody when asked to do so, nor that a doctor would allow himself/herself to suggest such a course.
In the Irish Republic, many people - particularly in the new political establishment - feel liberated from what they regard as the oppressive moral dominance of the Catholic Church and regard its traditional teaching on life-affirming values as a tiresome relic of an antiquated, repressive Christian morality, to be replaced with a new, value-free ethical framework. Populism rules. They should remember that a value-free society could well become a valueless society, with destructive consequences.
And yet they ignore that there is a timeless universal standard of life-affirming values. This is poignantly illustrated by the Hippocratic Oath's absolute prohibition on poisoning a patient.
It is quite extraordinary that, at a time when the Republic's health service is stretched to the limit in combating the deadly Covid-19 virus, that Dail Eireann should entertain, with significant potential support and little evident opposition, the passage of the Orwellian Dying with Dignity Bill, which has as its primary objective the premature death of terminally ill patients.
The Bill contains unreliable limits and safeguards that will, in due course, prove meaningless, as has already been seen in other regressive jurisdictions in Europe and North America.
Obviously, the ancient Hippocratic principle of "first do no harm" will be thrown out the window if this insidious legislative measure is adopted in the Republic.
Despite its potential fundamental impact on all of us on this island, the Dail has ignored the consequences of such a measure throughout this island.
The Irish government's Shared Island Unit has also remained mute on the impact of this Bill on north-south relations.
It seems that, as far as Dail Eireann and the government is concerned, the north might as well be North Korea.
There is a real danger that the Bill will pass without serious debate, not just on the principle of preserving life and the innate social value of life itself, but its unintended consequence on suicide prevention that has so painfully impacted upon many families throughout Ireland over the past two decades.
If passed, this Bill will unwittingly normalise suicide as an acceptable solution to difficult health and social problems. This will inevitably weaken the struggle to defeat suicide as an acceptable societal option, particularly among young people suffering from acute emotional, or mental health, problems.
The campaign to reduce suicides is already an uphill struggle without this perverse legislation complicating the argument. You cannot have assisted dying (or assisted suicide, as this euphemism should be honestly termed) as an official medical option and hope to somehow persuade people that suicide as a solution to one's problems is something wrong and to be prevented. This simply flies in the face of ordinary popular comprehension.
In the discussion around this Bill, the impact upon the medical profession itself should be of great concern to the public and their politicians.
If assisted suicide becomes an option in mainline medical services, there will be a negative impact on patient treatment and care.
As this diminished attitude to life becomes a norm, the situation will worsen. The devaluation in preserving, or prolonging, life is going to be significant, as the nursing and medical professions move to embrace the preservation of life as being a partial, rather than an absolute, objective.
This will inevitably dilute regard for human life within the caring services. It will also create fear and suspicion among patients with their doctors and nurses and between patients and their immediate families.
As it stands, this measure has been criticised by the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland and, in particular, the Irish Palliative Medicine Consultants' Association, whose specialism is to reduce pain and provide comfort to those who are seriously, or terminally, ill.
They know only too well the calamitous impact that such a fundamental change will make within Irish medical culture.
They appreciate - given the experience in other countries - the effect of "mission creep". They understand what "first do no harm" means, both professionally and ethically.