Catholic, Anglican, and Jewish leaders urge UK Parliament to reject assisted suicide bill

CNA Staff   By CNA Staff

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis attend a vigil in London, England, March 24, 2017. / AFP via Getty Images.

London, England, Oct 22, 2021 / 06:35 am (CNA).

Catholic, Anglican, and Jewish leaders have issued a joint appeal to U.K. lawmakers to reject a bill that would legalize assisted suicide.

In a statement issued on Oct. 19, they expressed “profound disquiet” over the Assisted Dying Bill, which has its second reading in the upper house of Parliament on Friday.

The private members’ bill, introduced in the House of Lords in May by Molly Meacher, seeks to “enable adults who are terminally ill to be provided at their request with specified assistance to end their own life.”

“As leaders of faith communities, we wish to express our profound disquiet at the provisions of the ‘Assisted Dying’ Bill currently in the House of Lords,” said the religious leaders’ letter sent to members of the Lords.

The text was signed by Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and Ephraim Mirvis, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth.

The religious leaders noted that Meacher introduced the bill with the stated aim of alleviating suffering.

“This motivation we share wholeheartedly, but we disagree on the means advanced to address this very real concern,” they said.

“In particular, we are conscious of the risks and dangers entailed in the provisions of the bill and the ‘real-life’ practical inadequacies of the proposed safeguards.”

The bill is the latest in a long line of attempts to legalize assisted suicide in the U.K.

The proposed legislation would authorize people in England and Wales who have signed a declaration expressing “a voluntary, clear, settled and informed wish,” countersigned by two “suitably qualified” registered medical practitioners, to seek consent for assisted suicide from the Family Division of the High Court in London.

The bill is facing opposition from medical professionals, as well as Catholic leaders such as Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury, Bishop Patrick McKinney of Nottingham, and Westminster auxiliary Bishop John Sherrington.

Nichols, Welby, and Mirvis said that their opposition to the bill was rooted in a conviction that every human life was sacred.

“By the faiths we profess, we hold every human life to be a precious gift of the Creator, to be upheld and protected. All people of faith, and those of none, can share our concern that the common good is not served by policies or actions that would place very many vulnerable people in more vulnerable positions,” they wrote.

“We appeal to people of whatever faith or belief to join us through our common bond of humanity in caring for the most vulnerable people within our society.”

The three men called for “high-quality palliative care” to be made available to everyone nearing death.

“We believe that the aim of a compassionate society should be assisted living rather than an acceptance of assisted suicide,” they said.

In September 2020, the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation reaffirmed the Church’s perennial teaching on the sinfulness of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Since then, supporters of the practices have made gains in several European countries.

In March, Spain’s legislature passed a law legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide, making Spain the fourth country in Europe to approve the practice, after the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg.

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  1. Well and good that 1,700 UK doctors oppose assisted suicide. Which leads to the question: How many UK doctors favor the practice? Internet stats show there are about 300,000 doctors in the UK. The estimated patient/GP ratio is about 1/2,000.

    Having fought against and having actually seen the horrid effects of legally-sanctioned euthanasia in the US, my prayers are with the 1,700 doctors and people of Christian faith and good will in the UK. May the UK lawmakers know and act upon values of civility, compassion, and respect for human dignity in its misguided weakest and vulnerable citizens.

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