Six faith groups in Britain warn against legalising assisted dying
By Martin Revis
London, 10 October 2005
Leaders of six British faith communities have expressed grave concern at possible steps to legalise assisted dying for the terminally ill, in advance of a debate on the issue in the House of Lords, the upper house of the British parliament.
"The so-called 'right to die' will inexorably become the duty to die and potentially economic pressure and convenience will come to dominate decision making," representatives of the Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh faiths said before the 10 October debate. In an open letter sent to members of both houses of parliament, the religious leaders asserted that most doctors are opposed to change, and said a change in the law would undermine respect for life.
They noted: "In Holland one in every 32 deaths arises from euthanasia: a similar law could lead to some 13 000 deaths a year here. Dutch pro-euthanasia groups are now campaigning for further relaxations to encompass people with dementia."
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, leader of the worldwide Anglican community, joined the debate in an article published on 9 October in the Mail on Sunday newspaper in which he reaffirmed his opposition to change despite having watched his mother die a painful death. "If it becomes lawful for private citizens to bring about the death of another private citizen, we are in uncharted waters," he warned.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, told BBC radio: "I would be against the law, not because I haven't got sympathy, but I also have sympathy for the law which protects life."
Lord Joffe, a member of the House of Lords, says he intends to propose a draft law later this year on assisted dying for the terminally ill. It would not be sponsored by the government and if it reaches a final vote, lawmakers will vote according to their consciences and not along party lines.
Joffe proposed a similar measure last year. It ran out of time for debate but prompted a review of the law on assisted dying by a committee of the House of Lords.
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- The press release and accompanying letter from Faith Leaders relating to the House of Lords' Select Committee debate on the Lord Joffe's Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill.
- The press release from The Rt. Revd. Christopher Herbert criticising the BMJ's approach to the assisted dying debate