Don’t let ‘false compassion’ legalize assisted suicide, say bishops of England and Wales

By | May 29, 2021

An all-party Parliamentary Group called Living and Dying Well is among the organizations opposed to assisted suicide. It has published a booklet, “Truths and Half Truths about Assisted Dying,” critical of claims by assisted suicide advocates like Dignity in Dying.

For its part, the group Right to Life UK has appealed for support, citing the need to fight assisted suicide bill along other efforts. It warns of a bill that would jail pro-life advocates if they offer support or advice to women near an abortion clinic. The Northern Ireland Secretary has given himself new powers to expand abortion services there. A push for abortion-on-demand for any reason up to birth is also expected, and coronavirus pandemic-era legalizations of “do-it-yourself” home abortions could be made permanent.

“Fighting both the abortion and assisted suicide lobbies over this period has already made a huge dent in Right To Life UK’s limited resources,” the group said.

It has said pro-life advocates successfully defeated the effort last year to add “two extreme abortion proposals” to the government’s Domestic Abuse Bill.

Miro Griffiths, a disability rights activist with the group Not Dead Yet, opposed assisted suicide.

“It’s a concern about the direction of healthcare and medical intervention for disabled people and it’s a concern about how we are starting to question whether certain groups in society should exist,” Griffiths told Sky News.

“I think we should instead be focusing on alternatives such as good palliative care and supporting people as their health deteriorates or changes.”

Griffiths predicted that assurances that legal assisted suicide will have a narrow scope will not be kept. Other countries have legalized assisted suicide for one group, then witness “ongoing campaigns to have more groups included.”

“I believe the safeguards that they’re proposing would be temporary. They would have to expand and change if more groups wanted access to assisted dying,” he said.

Several assisted suicide advocates have sought to challenge the law for England and Wales on constitutional grounds. Phil Newby, 50, who has motor neuron disease, in 2019 asked High Court judges to examine the arguments for legalizing assisted suicide. The Court of Appeal rejected his effort.

“It should be an option because it’s inhumane for it not to be an option,” Newby told Sky News.  “Someone in my position has really bleak choices ahead, in fact I have a lack of choice if anything.”

Among other critics of assisted suicide is Baroness Finlay of Landaff, a Welsh doctor who is a professor of palliative care and an independent crossbench member of the House of Lords.

Writing in a May 20 essay for The House magazine, she said that society rightly treats people who attempt suicide with “compassion” while being clear that “suicide is not something to be encouraged or assisted.”

“Yet how can we maintain that, while saying that some groups (for now, the terminally ill) should have their suicide assisted? Are the lives of those who are dying less deserving of efforts to improve their quality, even if prognosis is short?” she asked.

Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury on May 24 said a true culture of caring protects the sick, the vulnerable, and the elderly.

“I urge all those who value the sanctity of human life and desire the best care and support for the sick and the dying, to oppose this latest proposal to cross the line from caring towards killing,” he said.