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LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Ahead of a debate on medically-assisted suicide in the UK’s House of Lords, the English bishop in charge of pro-life issues says the proposal would “skew the meaning of medicine.”
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.
“Those in favor of the bill are making good use of language to confuse the issue and call it a compassionate and caring approach to redefine the question and obscure the actual reality and consequences of such legislation,” said Bishop John Sherrington, an auxiliary for the Diocese of Westminster and Lead Bishop for Life Issues at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.
“Catholic teaching opposes assisting suicide, since life is a gift to be cared for and preserved until its natural death. The Church is clear that we cannot directly choose to take the life of another, even if they request it. The solidarity of praying and caring for the most vulnerable at this fragile time of their lives is a profoundly Christian act which imitates Our Lady’s prayer at the cross and Christ’s service to the weakest,” the bishop wrote in a Sept. 8 open letter.
“Importantly, at this stage we need to argue the dangers of the introduction of Assisted Suicide, which include the safety of people who are vulnerable due to external pressures, and the later liberalization of the law which is evidenced by other countries which have introduced Assisted Suicide. Many voices from the world of disability rights and other allies are also very fearful and fighting this bill. Whilst there are clear arguments to support Catholic teachings, it is important to remember that this position is not only a matter of faith but also human reason,” he said.
Sherrington also noted the British Medical Association will later in September debate whether or not to change their official opposition to medically assisted suicide.
“I hope that healthcare professionals will enter this debate and highlight the dangers of this Bill to change and skew the meaning of medicine,” the bishop said.
In his letter, he asked Catholics to write the members of the House of Lords to urge them to oppose the bill, “as well as narrate the importance of precious time during the final stages of life.”
Baroness Jane Campbell, whose spinal muscular atrophy has confined her to a wheelchair, wrote about her opposition to the Meacher Bill in The Telegraph.
“We [the disabled and terminally ill] want basic human rights to live with dignity and respect so we can enjoy life. With the right support, most of us are pretty good at it,” she wrote.
“It is hard enough already for those of us with terminal illnesses and disabilities to get the support services we need to live active independent lives. For essential support to become merely the alternative option to assisted suicide terrifies us,” Campbell said.
Follow Charles Collins on Twitter: @CharlesinRome