The Church of England has urged Parliament to reject calls to legalize euthanasia.
In a 15 Nov 2012 response to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Choice at the End of Life’s Safeguarding Choice: A Draft Assisted Dying Bill for Consultation, the Church of England Mission and Public Affairs Council said proposals to allow the state to permit some people to kill other people was immoral and unethical.
It would “permit people actively to participate in bringing about the deaths of other individuals, something that, apart from cases of self defence, has not formed part of the legal landscape of the United Kingdom since the abolition of capital punishment,” the council said.
The stated purposed of the APPG on Choice at the End of Life according to its website is “to promote greater patient choice at the end of life, particularly over where, when and how one dies. The group believes that mentally competent adults should have the right to refuse treatment, and provided sufficient legal safeguards are in place, the right to an assisted death.”
With the pro-euthanasia pressure group, Dignity in Dying, acting as its secretariat, the APPG published a draft assisted dying bill on 3 July 2012 based uponthe recommendations of the Commission on Assisted Dying, which published its findings in January and was chaired by the former Secretary of State for Justice, Lord Falconer QC.
On 30 June 2012 Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying said: “The current law effectively turns a blind eye to compassionate amateur assistance to die, whilst threatening any healthcare professionals who assist with prosecution. This means that terminally ill people who want control over their death face a number of unpalatable choices: suffer against their wishes, travel abroad to die or ask a loved one to help them die at home.”
"As a society we have a responsibility to strive for better. No one wants dying people to suffer unnecessarily; equally no one wants to place vulnerable people in harm's way. At present we have the worst of both worlds. The time has come to change the law and allow people the choice of an assisted death if they are competent and nearing the end of a terminal illness. A clear and present problem combined with overwhelming public support mean that change is inevitable.
"It is our hope that this consultation will help foster a constructive debate, so that we can create the most robust law possible before a Bill is tabled in Parliament in the New Year,” she said.
The Church of England did not agree and urged Parliament to reject the draft bill. While acknowledging that Parliament was “genuinely” seeking to “meet the stated wishes of a small number of people,” the proposed legislation had not thought through “potentially damaging consequences.”
Permitting “assisted suicide” would undermine the value of human life and create a hierarchy of values that would determine whether a life was worth living based upon “age, illness, disability or economic or social status,” the council said.
Changing the law would mean the society “may be complicit in some individuals deliberately and actively ending others' lives prematurely. Important health and social care messages and interventions such as those aimed at suicide prevention or at giving reassurance of compassionate and effective End of Life Care are difficult to reconcile with a law that would enable health professionals to participate in actively ending patients' lives."
Allowing people to participate in the deaths of others “would have far-reaching and damaging effects on the nature of our society; a price too great to pay for whatever perceived benefits they might arguably bring to a few.”
"While recognising that individuals who wish to have assistance in ending their own lives may be seen as being vulnerable, their position needs to be considered alongside the obvious vulnerability of more than 300,000 elderly people who suffer abuse each year in England and Wales, very many of them at the hands of their own family members, often for pecuniary reasons. The question must be asked: on balance, might a change in the law place more vulnerable people at increased risk of neglect, marginalisation or abuse? Unless the answer can be a demonstrable and convincing 'no' it would be negligent in the extreme to contemplate such a change,” the council said.