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World News

Assisted-dying: Christians stage protest as Isle of Man parliament debate

by Heather Preston

Christians from across church denominations staged a protest at the Isle of Man parliament on Tuesday, as members debated whether terminally ill patients can be helped to end their lives.

The Assisted Dying Bill proposes that terminal patients with the capacity and a "clear and settled intention" have the right to end their lives early with medical help.

The legislation has had its second reading in the Isle of Mann and parliamentarians are now considering a number of clauses – including whether doctors should provide the lethal drugs, or if it should be self-administered.

If passed, the island could become the first part of the British Isles to legalise assisted dying for terminally ill and mentally competent people.

Churches Alive in Mann is a collective of eight Christian church denominations seeking to oppose the Bill.

The organisation, which represents Church of England, Methodist, Catholic, Living Hope, Elim, Salvation Army, United Reform Church and Baptist churches on the island, has raised concerns over the morality and potential coercion of vulnerable people, should the Bill be passed.

Bill Leishman, a Baptist minister from the organisation, told Premier Christian News that God calls us "not to kill".

"Life is God's to give and to take away.

"I think the deepest problem with assisted dying legislation is for vulnerable people who can be swept up in this. We know that a number of elderly, vulnerable, disabled people suffer from various types of coercion and discrimination. And there can be overt or subtle pressure."

Citing data from the US state of Oregon, where assisted dying legislation has existed since 1997, Leishman says 54 per cent of people going through the assisted dying programme said "feeling a burden" was one reason for choosing to go ahead with the treatment.

Leishman also argues that legislation which "provides the means for suicide" runs the risk of normalising suicide and creating a society that is less compassionate.

Currently, assisted dying is banned in all forms throughout the British Isles and carries a potential maximum prison sentence of 14 years.

The third reading of the proposed legislation is expected before the 2024 Summer recess. 

Pending royal ascent, the island's first assisted death could come as soon as 2027.

Assisted dying legislation has also been lodged in Jersey.

Leishman is encouraging Christians to "use their voices" and contact their local MHKs to ask them to vote against any proposed legislation on assisted dying.

"But the biggest thing, of course, is prayer. And we'd certainly appreciate your prayers for us here on the Isle of Man, because what happens here will have a ripple effect for the rest of the British Isles," Leishman added.


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