Directory: Churches and People

Faith leaders join to oppose Assisted Dying Bill

07 September 2015

Vulnerable people would be placed at risk should Parliament approve proposals to legalise assisted suicide, leaders of faith communities in Britain warn today in a letter to MPs.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster and the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis have joined more than 20 other faith leaders in signing a letter to MPs highlighting the dangers of the Assisted Dying no 2 Bill.

The Private Member's Bill proposes legalising assisted suicide for terminally ill people with six months or less to live and will be debated on Friday September 11 in the House of Commons.

In their letter, the faith leaders warn that the Bill has the potential to affect the lives of a 'great number" of people whose circumstances make them vulnerable in different ways.

"If passed, it will directly affect not only those who are terminally ill and who wish to end their lives, but also their families and friends and the health professionals who care for them," they say in the letter.

"It also has the potential to have a significant impact on other vulnerable individuals: those who believe that they have become burdens to family and carers and feel under pressure within themselves to 'do the decent thing' and, tragically, those who might be pressured by others to seek a medically-assisted death.

"In the UK some 500,000 elderly people are abused each year, most by family members, often for financial reasons. Many of these would also be vulnerable to pressure to end their lives prematurely."

For very many people, the natural processes of dying, along with good palliative care, enable them and their families to experience precious moments of love, care, reconciliation and hope - processes that ought not to be cut short, the faith leaders write.

The best response to individuals' end of life concerns lies in ensuring that all receive compassionate, high quality palliative care and this is best pursued under current legislation.

"Sadly, there are still instances of painful or distressing death, though due to advances in palliative care, these are much less common than was once the case," they say.

"For very many people, however, the natural processes of dying, allied with good palliative care, enable them and their families to experience precious moments of love, care, reconciliation and even hope; processes that ought not to be truncated. For many, a change in the law would result, not in greater comfort, but in an added burden to consider ending their lives prematurely; a burden they ought not to be asked to bear.

"We believe that the best response to individuals' end of life concerns lies in ensuring that all receive compassionate, high-quality palliative care and that this is best pursued under current legislation. A law based on this Assisted Dying Bill would put at risk many more vulnerable people than it seeks to help."

The full letter can be read here.