Church of England Opposes Changes to Assisted Dying Law in Britain

(Photo Credit: Alex E. Proimos / Flickr / Creative Commons)A person holds a stethoscope in a file photo.

A Church of England body is opposing changes to a British law on assisted dying, saying it would permit people to actively participate in someone's death, a move unprecedented since the country's abolition of capital punishment.

The CoE Mission and Public Affairs Council told members of parliament in statement last week that a change in the law on assisted dying 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 was responding to the Choice at the End of Life All Party Parliamentary Group's 'Safeguarding Choice: A Draft Assisted Dying Bill for Consultation."

The church notes that "the draft bill seeks genuinely to meet stated wishes of a small number of people" but determines that "it fails sufficiently to recognize its potentially damaging consequences."

The response states: "It is essential that society values and affirms the life and wellbeing of each of its members, regardless of age, illness, disability or economic or social status. A change in the law on assisted suicide has the capacity to undermine this by suggesting that society may be complicit in some individuals deliberately and actively ending others' lives prematurely."

The response adds: "A law permitting assisted suicide would run counter to the purpose and tenor of positive initiatives aimed at affirming and valuing vulnerable individuals and groups including numerous elderly people, many individuals living with disability, those who are socially isolated or who suffer from low self-esteem as well as individuals and families coping with issues related to dementia."

The church said more than 300,000 elderly people every year who suffer abuse – often at the hands of their family -- in England and Wales, noting they are vulnerable.

The response states: "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."

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