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World News

Christians welcome MPs' report on assisted dying

by Donna Birrell

A Committee of MPs has stopped short of calling for a vote on the issue of assisted dying.

In a new report, the Health and Social Care Committee hasn’t recommended a change in the law, but instead said there should be informed debate around the subject. It also said that the government needs to actively engage in discussions about euthanasia possibly becoming legal in places like Scotland, the Isle of Man or Jersey, where new measures on the issue are being considered.

Supporters of assisted dying accuse the Committee of sitting on the fence and say those who are terminally-ill deserve to choose a “painless death”. The broadcaster Esther Rantzen, who is terminally ill, described the government’s stance on assisted dying as a “mess” and has renewed her calls to legalise the procedure.

However, Peter Williams who is director of the Family Education Trust has told Premier the Committee has made the right decision:

“It would be very worrying if it were to recommend a practice which has been shown in other countries to be extremely dangerous, particularly for vulnerable people. In some countries we've seen things like people who are disabled being euthanized, or engaging in assisted suicide, we've seen high numbers of people who say, ‘actually, I just don't want to be a burden on others' going for euthanasia or assisted suicide on that basis. So I think this is the sort of thing which is poisonous to medical culture, to general culture, and particularly to the rights and protections that we owe to the most vulnerable members of our society.

“When it comes to places like Oregon in the United States, we have seen a high number of people, who said they wanted to end their own life because they felt like a burden – it was at 13 per cent when the law began, but it's been 40 – 60 per cent in more recent years. This is because they've created a culture in which people think, ‘well actually, I can just end my own life because I feel like a burden’ rather than a culture in which people are told ‘no, you are precious, and you are important. And you have sanctity in your own life, because of who and what you are as a human person. And we want to support you in that.’

“That's the sort of thing that we're worried about. When we go to places like Belgium and Holland with people ending their own life because they're disabled, because they can't accept their own homosexuality, for example, people who are going blind, in other words, things that are manageable conditions in which people could live years and years of worthwhile lives. And yet, they have been euthanized for this. This is just an unacceptable and dehumanising situation that we would never want to see, I hope, in this country.”

Esther Rantzen and other campaigners say there should now be a vote on the subject in Westminster. 

Peter Williams told Premier he understands why some people feel like they should have a choice in whether they die, but he maintained that such a choice will affect the choice of others.

“Faith and reason go together hand in hand,” he said.

“Of course, I believe that we should not be ending our own lives or ending the lives of others, because I'm a Christian. But much more basically, when it comes to general debate, I appeal to the common good. The common good is those sets of conditions that lead to the flourishing of everyone irrespective of who they are. And in order to have a society which enables the flourishing of every individual, every human person, each of whom is intrinsically valuable, we have to have a society in which we say no, to medicalized killing.

"We should want a society in which everyone is given as much help as humanly possible by access to the kind of proper palliative care and analgesic relief of pain that would allow everyone to have pain relief to the best of our possible ability.”

Premier Unbelievable explores the topic of assisted dying in a conversation with Ellen Wiebe and Dr Mark Pickering here.

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