Protecting Life – opposing Assisted Suicide. Produced by Mission and Public Affairs, in association with the Archbishops’ Council’s Communications Office. Position Principles Assisted Suicide in Practice. Position.
Protecting Life – opposing Assisted Suicide
Produced by Mission and Public Affairs, in association with the Archbishops’ Council’s Communications Office
PositionPrinciplesAssisted Suicide in Practice
The Church of England is opposed to any change in the law, or medical practice, to make assisted suicide permissible or acceptable.
Suffering, the Church maintains, must be met with compassion, commitment to high-quality services and effective medication; meeting it by assisted suicide is merely removing it in the crudest way possible.
In its March 2009 paper Assisted Dying/Suicide and Voluntary Euthanasia, the Church acknowledges the complexity of the issues: the compassion that motivates those who seek change equally motivates the Church’s opposition to change
Personal autonomy and the protection of life are both important principles that are often complementary but sometimes compete.
Personal autonomy must be principled and not without regard to others.
Protection of life should take priority when there is a conflict between the two.
When protection of life is impossible that does not undermine these principles.
Every human being is uniquely and equally valuable, hence human rights are built on the foundation of the ‘right to life’, as is much of the criminal code.
An obligation on society, doctors and nurses, to take life or to assist in the taking of life would create a new and unwelcome role for society.
Assisted Suicidein Practice (1)
There would be problems ensuring that any law permitting assisted suicide would be sufficiently safe-guarded against abuse.
Elastic interpretations of the law: any law, however tightly formulated, would have to be 'interpreted'; doctors would vary in their approach and consistency would be impossible to achieve with ‘wider’ interpretations of the law becoming acceptable.
Hidden pressures on patients and staff: even with safeguards, it would be impossible to ensure that no vulnerable, terminally ill patient would feel under moral, economic or social pressure to accept assisted suicide.
Assisted Suicidein Practice (2)
A redefinition of healthcare: trust in the health service is crucial to the health and well-being of individuals and of the population; to introduce assisted suicide into the NHS (the only way the ‘right’ would be universally accessible) would be to change fundamentally the nature of that trust.
The doctor and nurse/patient relationship would change: the nature of this relationship would change fundamentally and irrevocably if assisted suicide or voluntary euthanasia were to become part of the 'treatment' that health professionals were to be able to offer their patients.
The effects on palliative care: assisted suicide would require large resources, with no guarantee it would be safely and fairly administered, putting further pressure on the already under-resourced psychological, social, family and spiritual support services needed to address all of the needs of terminally-ill people in a full palliative care-package.
Church of England www.churchofengland.org/our-views.aspx
Care Not Killing www.carenotkilling.org.uk