The second reading of Baroness Meacher’s Assisted Dying Bill is scheduled for Friday 22 October. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Chief Rabbi and the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster have issued a joint Press Release, reproduced below, which warns of the risk to vulnerable people should Parliament back a new attempt to change the law on assisted suicide. Links to the information on Physician-assisted dying, including its comparison of the arguments for and against, are also reproduced below.
Faith leaders warn of risk to vulnerable posed by Assisted Dying Bill
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Chief Rabbi and the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster warn today of the risk to vulnerable people should Parliament back a new attempt to change the law on assisted suicide.
In a joint letter to peers, Archbishop Justin Welby, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, who is President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, and The Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, speak of their ‘profound disquiet’ over the Assisted Dying Bill, ahead of its second reading in the House of Lords on Friday.
The Private Member’s Bill, tabled by Baroness Meacher, proposes legalising assisted suicide for terminally ill people with under six months to live. The three faith leaders highlight the risks and dangers entailed in the provisions of the Bill and the ‘real-life’ practical inadequacies of its proposed safeguards.
The common good is not served by policies or actions that would place very many vulnerable people in more vulnerable positions, they warn. They appeal for people of all faiths and none to join with them through the ‘common bond of humanity’ in caring for the most vulnerable in society.
In contrast to the Bill, the faith leaders call for measures to make high-quality palliative care available to all at the end of their lives. The aim of a compassionate society should be ‘assisted living’ rather than an acceptance of assisted suicide, they note.
“By the faiths we profess, we hold every human life to be a precious gift of the Creator, to be upheld and protected. All people of faith, and those of none, can share our concern that the common good is not served by policies or actions that would place very many vulnerable people in more vulnerable positions.
“We appeal to people of whatever faith or belief to join us through our common bond of humanity in caring for the most vulnerable people within our society. In contrast to the proposals in this Bill, we continue to call for measures to make high-quality palliative care available to all at the end of their lives. We believe that the aim of a compassionate society should be assisted living rather than an acceptance of assisted suicide.”
On 14 September 2021, the policy-making body of the BMA voted in favour of a motion changing the BMA’s policy from opposition to a change in the law on assisted dying, to a position of neutrality.
“This means we will neither support nor oppose attempts to change the law. We will not be silent on this issue, however. We have a responsibility to represent our members’ interests and concerns in any future legislative proposals and will continue to engage with our members to determine their views.”
The BMA web pages explain the nature of Physician-assisted dying, and the survey of its members in February 2020. This includes: a comparison of the arguments for and against; the law in the UK and around the world; development of the law and BMA policy over the past twenty years. Also: Surveys of Public and professional opinion on physician-assisted dying; Physician-assisted dying: the doctor-patient relationship.
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