Monday 29 June 2009

Religious leaders' joint letter against assisted suicide

Dr Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury (Anglican), Vincent Nichols, the archbishop of Westminster (Catholic) and Sir Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi, have written a joint letter published in today's Telegraph, opposing parliamentary moves to undermine the law against assisted suicide. Among other things, the letter states that Lord Falconer's amendment to government's Coroners and Justice bill, due to debated by the House of Lords
"would surely put vulnerable people at serious risk, especially sick people who are anxious about the burden their illness may be placing on others. Moreover, our hospice movement, an almost unique gift of this country to wider humankind, is the profound and tangible sign of another and better way to cope with the challenges faced by those who are terminally ill."
The fact that the leaders of three of Britain's main religions, representing millions of followers, have come together to sign this letter demonstrates the profound concern that exists in British society about threats to the sanctity of human life. There is widespread disquiet about a growing culture of death in Britain, with euthanasia already allowed in law in some circumstances through the Mental Capacity Act passed in 2005. The amendments proposed by Lord Falconer, Lord Joffe, Lord Alderdice and other peers will serve to threaten the vulnerable with lethal abandonment. Please forward the religious leaders' letter to members of the House of Lords when you write to them to oppose Lord Falconer's amendment - see SPUC's action alert of 6 June.

As an independent human rights organisation, SPUC supports the right of religious leaders to speak out on ethical principles. If an action, especially a public one, is incompatible with religious belief, then religious leaders must be free to point this out. Those who call this interference fail to recognise that the moral law cannot be confined only to certain spheres of activity. Morality has a universal jurisdiction.

As George Pitcher, an Anglican clergyman with a column in The Telegraph, welcoming the religious leaders' letter, points out, contrary to
"the euthanasia lobby [who] would like nothing better than to characterise the issue as a simple choice between religion and secularism"
"[m]any a secular humanist will argue that human life is uniquely to be revered and that the best answer to the terminally ill clogging up our health service isn't necessarily to help them to kill themselves."
Dignity in Dying (DID), i.e. the Voluntary Euthanasia Society (VES), has declared that "assisting non-terminally ill adults to die is wrong", yet Debbie Purdy - whose case DID/VES is supporting - told yesterday's Independent that
"I personally would argue for a law that provided assistance to the incurable/chronically ill who suffer unbearably and have reached the end of their tether."
Mrs Purdy goes on to say that:
"'Assisted suicide' suggests someone giving up. It is always heartbreaking when a person loses faith in her/himself, and family and friends are consumed with regret at not having done 'something'. What we are talking about is 'assisted dying', when someone facing the certainty of death or pain they cannot bear chooses to take control."
Note that Mrs Purdy defines "assisted dying" as not just when
"someones [is] facing the certainty of death"
but also
"when someone [is] facing the certainty of...pain they cannot bear"
So there we have it, de facto admissions that the term "assisted dying" is just a euphemism to replace the negative connotations suggested by the term "assisted suicide", and that non-dying people will be killed if so-called assisted dying is allowed in law.

So congratulations to the three religous leaders for standing up to euthanasia lobby's campaign of caricature and euphemism, a campaign which threatens the vulnerable with lethal abandonment.

So again, please forward the religious leaders' letter to members of the House of Lords when you write to them to oppose Lord Falconer's amendment - see SPUC's action alert of 6 June.

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