Monday, 14 July 2014

'Right to die' Bill backed by ex-archbishop

Drop in longstanding opposition comes 'in the face of the reality of needless suffering'
The Sunday Times, 13 Jul 2014

London - The former leader of the Church of England George Carey says he has changed his mind and would support a British Bill to allow assisted suicide in certain cases.

The former cleric, 78, who is now a lord and sits in Britain's upper chamber the House of Lords, said yesterday he would support the Bill which would allow mentally capable adults to request help to die if they were suffering from a terminal illness and had less than six months to live.

Lord Carey - the spiritual leader of the world's Anglicans until he retired in 2002 - told the Daily Mail that he had dropped his longstanding opposition.

"The fact is I've changed my mind," he wrote in a piece for the British newspaper.

"The old philosophical certainties have collapsed in the face of the reality of needless suffering," he explained.

But the current Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby later restated his and the Church's opposition to the Bill, saying it could open the way to abuse and neglect of older people.

The Bill is to be debated in the House of Lords next Friday.

Members of both Houses of the British Parliament are being given a free vote on the issue and several members of the government, including care minister Norman Lamb, are expected to vote in favour. A series of opinion polls in Britain have shown increasing levels of public support for a change in the law in principle.

But the Church of England has consistently argued against any law change, and its current leader repeated his opposition.

"It would be very naive to think that many of the elderly people who are abused and neglected each year, as well as many severely disabled individuals, would not be put under pressure to end their lives if assisted suicide were permitted by law," Archbishop Welby wrote in The Times.

"It would be equally naive to believe, as the Assisted Dying Bill suggests, that such pressure could be recognised in every instance by doctors given the task of assessing requests for assisted suicide," he warned.

A spokesman for the Church of England told the Mail Online that in February 2012 the Anglican General Synod passed a motion which affirms the intrinsic value of every human life and expresses its support for the current law on assisted suicide as a means of contributing to a just and compassionate society in which vulnerable people are protected.

The British Medical Association has also rejected calls for it to soften its opposition to assisted dying

According to the Mail Online, Rabbi Jonathan Romain, chair of Inter Faith Leaders for Dignity in Dying - a British alliance of clergy of different faiths in favour of assisted dying - said: "The former archbishop's words are like a breath of fresh air sweeping through rooms cloaked in theological dust that should have been dispersed long ago.

"He shows that it is possible to be both religious and in favour of assisted dying.

"It also indicates that the debate is not - as is often thought - a battle between the religious and secular camps, but is within the religious community too," he told the Mail.

Lord Carey said it was clear that assisted deaths were already happening "in the shadows", where doctors, friends or relatives privately carry out mercy killings.

He said it had become clear to him that "both the Bible and the character of God laid far more importance on open-hearted benevolence" than on upholding the existing law. Lord Carey's Daily Mail article urged opponents of reform to remind themselves that "one of the key themes of the gospels is love for our fellow human beings".

"In strictly observing the sanctity of life, the Church could now actually be promoting anguish and pain, the very opposite of a Christian message of hope," he added.


Man with locked-in syndrome inspires decision
The Sunday Times, 13 Jul 2014

Lord George Carey's change of mind was inspired by the case of Mr Tony Nicklinson, who suffered for years from locked-in syndrome.

The father of two had campaigned in vain to be allowed to end his life, until he died two years ago.

Mr Nicklinson, 58, was left paralysed but fully conscious following a stroke on a business trip to Athens in 2005.

His death from pneumonia in August, 2012 came just six days after the London High Court rejected his bid to declare that any doctor who killed him with his consent would not be prosecuted.

Mr Nicklinson, a former corporate manager and rugby player, was unable to move from the neck down. He was forced to communicate by controlling a computer with eye movements although his mind was unaffected and his condition was not terminal.

Mr Nicklinson had described his life as "dull, miserable, demeaning, undignified and intolerable", an Agence France-Presse report said.

"It was the case of Tony Nicklinson that exerted the deepest influence on me," Lord Carey wrote in the Daily Mail.

Mr Nicklinson's widow Jane said Lord Carey's decision was "huge", the BBC reported yesterday. "I'm amazed actually and thrilled because the Church has always been one of our greatest opponents," she told BBC Radio 5 live.

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