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LEICESTER, United Kingdom – An English bishop says a proposed bill to legalize assisted suicide “raises serious questions about society’s ability to protect those who are most vulnerable.”
In a pastoral letter issued Sept. 26, Bishop Richard Moth of the Diocese of Arundel & Brighton said the Assisted Suicide Bill, currently making its way through the House of Lords, must be opposed by British Catholics.
“It is important that we take action to challenge this proposed legislation. It is also vital that we affirm our support for the best possible end-of-life care, including spiritual and pastoral support for those who are dying and for their families,” the bishop said.
Baroness Molly Meacher’s private member’s Assisted Dying Bill is set to get its second reading – where it will be debated in the House of Lords – on Oct 22.
The proposed legislation would allow terminally ill patients in their last six months of life to commit medically-assisted suicide with the permission of two doctors and a judge. In 2015, a similar bill was introduced in the House of Commons – which holds the real power in the UK – and defeated by a vote of 330 to 118.
“The Catholic Church remains opposed to any form of assisted suicide. It is a crime against human life and we cannot directly choose to take the life of another, even if they request it,” Moth said.
“The Bill currently being considered raises serious questions about society’s ability to protect those who are most vulnerable. We must ask how the law can ensure that a person will be free from pressure to end their life prematurely due to perceptions about ‘quality’ or ‘worth’ of life, and will not feel the need to act out of a sense of ‘being a burden’ to family and to the wider society. In this context, it is important for us all to reach out to those who may feel isolated or lonely, enabling them to recognise their value and the contribution their experience and wisdom brings to others,” the bishop added.
Moth pointed to the impact of assisted suicide legislation introduced in other parts of the world, including Belgium, Canada, and the U.S. state of Oregon.
“Evidence shows that the introduction of laws for ‘small numbers of cases’ has inevitably led to an exponential growth in those seeking ‘assisted dying’. The State of Oregon has seen an increase of 1075 percent in ‘assisted deaths’ between 1998 and 2019, Belgium has seen a 925 percent increase between 2002 and 2019, and in Canada the increase in only four years between 2016 and 2020 has been 648 percent,” he said.
“These are deeply concerning figures and are accompanied by an expansion of grounds, to include assisted suicide for children, non-terminal illness and non-terminal psychiatric illness. We should be in no doubt that any legislation to permit assisted suicide in our own country would take us in the same direction,” claimed the bishop.
Moth said most of the concerns presented by proponents of medically-assisted suicide can be addressed by good end-of-life care.
“This country has a fine tradition and experience in end-of-life care, rooted in the care and compassion that is at the core of our humanity. This is seen when the best possible care is available, that all may be enabled to come to the end of their lives with the best of pain relief, surrounded by family, whether in hospital, hospice or at home. The provision of this care should be a priority,” he said.
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