Church of England bishops have united with the Roman Catholic Church in launching a campaign to prevent the legalisation of ‘assisted suicide’ this week. The Roman Catholic attempt to distribute half a million anti-euthanasia leaflets and DVDs to each of their parishes in England and Wales is the biggest political campaign by the Church.
Anglican leaders this week also voiced their opposition to the parliamentary move and urged Christians to lobby MPs and Peers to prevent Lord Joffe’s Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill becoming law.
The Bishop of St Albans, Christopher Herbert, the lead Anglican bishop on the issue of euthanasia, said that the Bill “strikes at the very heart of our society and could increase pressure upon the most vulnerable.” While he said that no one should have to suffer unbearably at the end of their lives, he called for proper provision of palliative care to address the problem.
Writing in The Church of England Newspaper, he said: “Instead of a counsel of despair, we should be arguing strongly and passionately for the investment of more resources in the training and provision of palliative care specialists. Killing is no substitute for caring.” He said that the Assisted Dying Bill was based on the belief that the exercise of autonomy and choice were the highest moral goods. Such a belief, he said, was a deeply flawed basis on which to organise society.
He said the intention behind the bill was a first step to euthanasia and claimed it would both damage the doctor-patient relationship and family relationships. “If we legalise assisted suicide it could imply that some people’s lives have less worth and value than others.” The Bishop of Hereford, Anthony Priddis, called on churchgoers across his diocese to write to their MPs to oppose the Bill. He said that the Bill could put pressure on patients and their families. “No one person’s choice is entirely an individual matter. People saying, ‘I don’t want to suffer’ or ‘I don’t want to be a burden’, is perfectly understandable but proper treatment, proper care and proper support for patients and their families in that situation can provide an answer,” he said.
The Second Reading of the Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill, proposed by Lord Joffe, is expected to take place in May.
Archbishop Peter Smith of Cardiff is spearheading the Roman Catholic campaign against the bill. He appealed to lay Catholics to go to their MPs and “say we do not want this law.”