Updated Tuesday morning
Three years ago a move to legalise physician assisted suicide, by way of a Private Members Bill, was defeated in the House of Lords. The debate on the Bill was heated and impassioned. It was also, by and large, respectful and serious.
Shortly before the Bill was debated in Parliament, the Royal College of Physicians asked its member doctors if they thought the law needed changing – and over 70% of those responding said the law against assisted suicide should stay the same. The Royal College of General Practitioners also urged that the law should stay the same.
Now, by way of an amendment to the Coroners and Justice Bill, the legality of assisting people to end their own lives is once again to be debated. The proposed amendment seeks to protect from prosecution those who help friends or relatives to go abroad to commit suicide in one of the few countries where the practice is legal.
It would surely put vulnerable people at serious risk, especially sick people who are anxious about the burden their illness may be placing on others. Moreover, our hospice movement, an almost unique gift of this country to wider humankind, is the profound and tangible sign of another and better way to cope with the challenges faced by those who are terminally ill, by their loved ones and by those who care for them.
This amendment would mark a shift in British law towards legalising euthanasia. We do not believe that such a fundamental change in the law should be sought by way of an amendment to an already complex Bill. It should be rejected.
The Most Reverend and Rt Hon Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury
The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster
Sir Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth
And that’s not all, Martin Beckford of the Telegraph reports: Senior legal figures join in opposition to ‘euthanasia law’ proposals.
The Church of England has published Protecting Life – opposing Assisted Suicide.
The Church of England is opposed to any change in the law, or medical practice, to make assisted suicide permissible or acceptable.
Suffering, the Church maintains, must be met with compassion, commitment to high-quality services and effective medication; meeting it by assisted suicide is merely removing it in the crudest way possible.
In its March 2009 paper Assisted Dying/Suicide and Voluntary Euthanasia, the Church acknowledges the complexity of the issues: the compassion that motivates those who seek change equally motivates the Church’s opposition to change…