Thursday 25 February 2010

SPUC criticises Archbishop Smith's "welcome" of assisted suicide guidelines

Peter Smith (pictured), archbishop of Cardiff, who speaks on pro-life matters on behalf of the Catholic bishops of England and Wales, has said today that he "welcome[s]" new guidelines on assisted suicide published today by Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions (DPP). Archbishop Smith highlighted positive changes in the guidelines and made no mention of any negative aspects.

Paul Tully of SPUC Pro-Life, which was officially represented before the courts in the Debbie Purdy case, told the media this evening:
"Archbishop Smith's comments are very disturbing. It seems he may be suggesting that disabled people are better protected now than they were before the interim guidelines issued last September.

"While today's final guidelines certainly appear to have eliminated some of the worst aspects of the interim guidelines, today's guidelines retain many damaging elements. Today's guidelines fail to mention relevant factors from the general Code for Crown Prosecutors, which tells prosecutors that a victim's disability or vulnerability are factors that should weigh in favour of a prosecution. The element of implicit discrimination is more subtle, but it is still there.

"Furthermore, today's guidelines still represent a significant shift towards judging the suspect's motive ("compassion") in committing the crime, rather than his/her intention (to help cause death). This shift clearly undermines the protection that the law affords to those who might commit suicide, and leaves prosecutors with a very difficult task, when faced with relatives who claim to be grief-stricken by the death of someone they loved, but helped to commit suicide."
As I mentioned last week, Archbishop Smith, on behalf of the bishops' conference, publicly opposed SPUC's campaign on the pro-euthanasia Mental Capacity bill (now Act), welcomed the bill, accepted the government's assurances on the bill, and co-operated with the government in ensuring its passage through parliament. The Act enshrines in statute law euthanasia by neglect.

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