Thursday, 11 May 2006

House of Lords debate on assisted suicide

As I mentioned last Saturday, the Church of England is opposed to the Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill to be considered in the House of Lords on Friday. A lot of information is available here.

According to Anglican Mainstream:

In a surprise development regarding Lord Joffe’s Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill, Lord Carlisle tabled an amendment yesterday ‘that the bill should now be read a second time this day six months hence’ . This, in effect, kicks the bill into the long grass and will kill it. The vote will take place after the debate on Friday. We expect it to occur sometime after 3pm.

The Care Not Killing petition has been signed by over 100,000 people so far.

This legislation is also heavily opposed by the membership of the Royal College of Physicians. See RCP cannot support legal change on assisted dying - survey results.

The bill is also opposed by many disabled people, see Not Dead Yet in the U.K. - Disability Coalition Opposes Assisted Suicide Bill. And also this.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 11 May 2006 at 7:11pm BST | TrackBack
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How about some links to those in favour of this excellent Bill, Simon?

Or are religionists and medics going to continue to tell us that we cannot have the right to exercise autonomy and choose a dignified death?

Posted by: Merseymike on Thursday, 11 May 2006 at 11:13pm BST

Sure, Mike, here is one such link:
http://www.openchurch.info/EuthanasiaBadham.htm

But I think the answer to your question is Yes.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 11 May 2006 at 11:50pm BST

Oh, I think you are right - but I am confident that in time, change will come. In the meantime, euthanasia will continue to be practiced under cover and unregulated - far more dangerous - and at least Advanced Directives do have force of law now.

One day, the Church will have to face the fact that advances in medical science has made its belief in the sanctity of life at all costs both out of date and unviable. Continued secularisation will, hopefully, make church opinion less important as time moves on - given that I have reached the view that the church is essentially not a positive influence in society, as it stands.

Posted by: Merseymike on Friday, 12 May 2006 at 10:19am BST

Yes, different people of good conscience and goodwill (or bad conscience and bad will) draw the personal life/death lines differently. Even JP II eventually instructed his aides not to return him to further hospital care, a de facto choice for welcoming his own imminent death. Did he have an ethical obligation to go back for life-prolonging procedures, no matter what?

I guess we are still rocking n rolling from the great sea change in our basic paradigm for cause/effect. We formerly pledged right across the boards to believe in a God who was a personal, direct cause of everything humanity saw happening in our natural cosmos. Need rain? Ask God, deity is immediately behind the rain. Now, other basic paradigms of cause/effect are demonstrated. Yet we still prefer to many times believe that God personally and immediately directs each sperm meeting each egg, or maybe, personally directs when exactly death arrives to a particular person. (Except when one person murders another? How about fatal car crashes? If every bad driver is actually intending murder, we might just have to lock them up for it? Hmm. How often penal frameworks creep in, right after or along with these traditional paradigms of how God directly and personally causes something to happen in our natural cosmos.)

In contrast - we mostly do not still prefer to believe that God personally and immediately directs a tsunami to kill thousands over night. Or do we? If you get a toothache, you do not head off to the local Anglican priest these days to repent of your secret sin of failing to floss and brush so that God will remove the toothache; instead we tend to head off to the dentist to get x-rays and see if a cavity has formed. Any confessional or metanoia rituals you engage may be more likely to occur in talks with the dental hygienist, instead of the local reverend. (Is that metanoia, God at work? The devil at work? Neither?) I am often surprised how many people say they don't believe in the basic paradigms any more for God's immediate, personal willing of this or that natural event; but still cling to the traditional conclusions reached by applying just that old paradigm in which they supposedly no longer believe. Stay tuned. The New Biology is even now starting to demonstrate in completely new ways, just how many things in human nature and human behavior (for better and for worse) are not mainly caused by nothing but personal, immediate willing or choosing - by either the people, or the deity, supposedly involved. This will shake us all up, even more than it already has, that's my bet.

The shifting medical or physical - and hence, social, and religious - boundaries between life and death are only a visible edge of these larger changes. Lord have mercy. I shall probably be needing a real friend or two as I say goobye to my life, not a policemen (or a policeman disguised as a religious figure) to see that I stayed alive until he or she noted that some law or dogma was obediently satisfied and could log it in the proper papers. Is that God at work? The devil at work? Neither?

Posted by: drdanfee on Friday, 12 May 2006 at 4:43pm BST

Dear drdanfee, I must say that, like abortion/contraception, the debate over euthanasia tends to be over-simplified by both 'sides'.

One thing that JPII wanted to show was that people of age and people of disability/terminal illness are still valuable. With a friend currently in the later stages of cancer, I can testify to the value and joy that can still be extracted from life with good medical care and an extremely caring husband and friends. At some point, however, there comes the point of "nothing more can be done" after which you just have to accept the dying process and prepare for it, maybe with heavy pain control. But that can be just a few weeks before the inevitable end nowadays.

I think that few people believe that you should choose to be kept alive at any cost. Nor that medical treatment to reduce pain, or improve quality of life, shouldn't extend to the point where the duration of life may be shortened (Another helpful example is treatment of heart failure. There are choices of drugs: some enable life to be lived quite normally - but the heart will then give way completely after a few months. Other treatments control the heart so that it may last several years, but you will not be able to be active). These are reasonable choices to offer people.

Personally I think that a "right to die" - meaning the right to receive lethal medical intervention at the time of ones own choosing - is going much too far. What if you are perfectly well and just feeling lonely or depressed ? What if you could have several years more good quality life with the right medical and family support ? What if someone decides to die because they feel an obligation to not spend all their inheritance (for example) on medical bills ... or to be 'a burdon on the taxpayer' ? What if the doctors decide that, in their opinion, your future quality of life will be insufficient - and administer euthanasia (on the basis of your "right to die" which would, presumably, be the state's decision if you are not in a position to decide yourself.)

I think that all these are "sick" scenarios, but very likely outcomes of a "right to die"!

Posted by: Dave on Monday, 15 May 2006 at 10:48pm BST

Fellow Anglican here (St. James, Washington, DC) who has been following your assisted dying debate in the UK for a while now, as I was involved in defending and promoting Oregon's Death with Dignity Law here in the US. The law has worked effectively, with proper safeguards, and is a model of compassion for people suffering from terminal illnes. The US Supreme Court has also said the feds cannot interfere. I thought your readers might be interested in this post entitled Who Can Claim Life as a Culture? http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2006/05/29/who-can-claim-life-as-a-culture

People of faith embrace this law because of its careful construction and thoughtful implementation. Life is sacred to be sure, but a life well lived within the blessings of free will should not be forced to suffer needlessly at the end by having that free will removed by the state, when it was given by God in the first place.

Posted by: Scott on Saturday, 10 June 2006 at 5:46pm BST
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