Freedom of speech and personal destiny

I never thought I would find myself sympathising with the Pope or agreeing with a journalist with such extreme views as Mary Ellen Synon.

The recent comments by the Pope that has so upset the Muslim world should be seen in the West in simple terms – Should religious belief be allowed to take precedence over freedom of speech?

Mary Ellen Synon was debating on Today FM the case of a Jehovah’s Witness who was forcibly given blood against her express wishes. The presenter Sam Smyth and the panel which included Pat Rabbitte strongly disagreed with Synon’s view that the woman’s rights were violated.

I suspect the judge was taking a typically Irish approach to a very difficult problem. His decision saved him and the medical personnel from facing the consequences of allowing a person to make a free decision about her own destiny.

The case could, however, open up a Pandora’s Box. For example, what happens now if a person decides not to avail of treatment for cancer? Can a family member or indeed the State go to court and force treatment because they know what’s best?

In the case of the Pope and Islam, the West should defend its cherished right to free speech. In the case of the Jehovah Witness, the right of a sane adult to decide their own destiny should be sacrosanct.