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17 July 2014

Former archbishop's assisted suicide position disappointing

Former archbishop's assisted suicide position disappointing

Lord Falconer

Lord Carey's change of face on the issue of assisted suicide has been met with disappointment and surprise.

As well as being a leader for traditional Christian values, the former Archbishop of Canterbury has long upheld the sanctity of life and worked tirelessly to promote a pro-life culture. In light of this it was particularly disappointing to read that he has turned his back on promoting the sanctity of life and is now supporting Lord Falconer's dangerous Assisted Dying Bill.

Lord Falconer's bill, if passed, would grant physician-assisted suicide for mentally competent terminally ill adults who have six months, or less, to live. The bill is currently being debated in the House of Lords and will have its second reading on Friday, 18 July.

Dr Andrew Fergusson, spokesman for Care Not Killing, says: "As Paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and other disability rights campaigners have said, changing the law would be dangerous and discriminatory. It would send out a very clear message to those who are disabled, terminally ill, or just old, that their lives are less worth living and protecting than the lives of the young and healthy.

"The current law exists to protect the vulnerable and those without a voice: disabled, terminally ill and elderly people, who might otherwise feel pressured into ending their lives. It does not need changing."

There is a very real concern that if legalised, assisted suicide would quickly extend beyond the ambiguous and weak parameters laid out in the bill. Since the legalisation of assisted suicide in Belgium and the Netherlands it has become more and more commonplace –even being extended to children.

Dr Dave Landrum, director of advocacy at the Alliance, says: "This is a classic slippery slope situation, and we must remain vigilant to value and protect life."

Lord Carey's premise that to oppose assisted suicide promotes "anguish" and "pain" is entirely incorrect. In opposing this bill we are not seeking to trivialise or ignore the pain and suffering many people endure. Our country has a rich tradition of quality care for the dying and long may this continue. We should continue to promote and invest in palliative care which, thanks to modern medicine, can effectively deal with most forms of physical pain and distress.

At the heart of Christian faith is the belief that life is a sacred gift from God; it is not ours to decide when it should end. We are stewards, not the owners of the life God has entrusted to us. So we have a responsibility to promote a culture of life rather than one of hopelessness for people in the midst of very difficult circumstances.

Those supporting assisted suicide talk often about the right to choose. And they are correct. We do have a choice.

We can choose to support a society which as the Telegraph's Tim Stanley aptly describes, "quietly, subtly, maybe subconsciously encourages others to remove their burden of existence from the shoulders of other people".

Or we can choose to support a society which upholds the inherent dignity and value of every individual. A society which protects our most vulnerable, especially the terminally ill, the disabled and the elderly. A society which as the Bishop of Plymouth says, "Cherishes life in all its vulnerability".

How to get involved:

We are joining with Care Not Killing and urging people to make their voices heard in opposition to the bill by writing to peers in the House of Lords through their website.

Care Not Killing are also encouraging people to sign the Not Dead Yet petition which challenges prime minister David Cameron to back up his declared opposition to assisted suicide.

Along with various disability rights groups, Care Not Killing and the Evangelical Alliance will gather outside parliament to lobby peers on Friday, 18 July. For more information about how you can join please go here.