Westminster Cardinal Warns of "Duty to Die"

Speaks Out Against Bill on Assisted Dying

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LONDON, OCT. 10, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor spoke out against an assisted-dying bill being considered in Britain, warning that the «right to die can become a duty to die.»

The archbishop of Westminster made that comment on the BBC One’s «Sunday AM» program, in regard to the Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill being debated today in the House of Lords.

He was asked by the interviewer whether the matter of death is «not an intensely personal thing which should be left to the individual and not to churches?»

«It’s not only a personal thing,» the cardinal responded, «it’s a common thing and I think the churches have a right to say what they deeply believe regarding the sanctity of life and also regarding the consequences of particular actions.

«With regard to assisted dying and this bill of Lord Joffe, first of all I’d say, with the growth of hospices, which care for the dying — and I’ve been to many — there’s no doubt that there are now ways of palliative care that we didn’t have before and therefore that great moment, or moments, or time of going to the next life, of dying is a very important moment and time in a person’s life — «

At that point the interviewer, Andrew Marr, broke in and asked: «It is an important moment, but I know people who would very much want the right to decide in dignity how and when they went. Is it really right for any outside body, including the Church to tell them they can’t?»

«To protect life»

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor answered: «Well I think the Church in fact should help the law. If this law is passed, it seems to me the duty of the law to act of behalf of the people would be broken. Because the law is there to protect life. And you know the right to die can become a duty to die.»

When Marr observed, «We live so much longer these days and death can be so much more difficult as a result,» the cardinal responded: «Yes, I can understand that. And I understand very sad cases.

«But hard cases don’t make good laws and I think that the whole trust between a doctor and his or her patient is at stake here. My father was a doctor, my brother is a doctor. I think this is intensely important and therefore I would be totally against this law. […] I also have sympathy for the law which protects life and if that goes I think a moral Rubicon will be passed in this country which we would live to regret.»

Meanwhile, in Glasgow, Scotland, Archbishop Mario Conti, the vice chair of the joint Bioethics Committee of the bishops’ conferences of Britain and Ireland, made a statement on the assisted-dying bill.

«Legally assisted suicide is the first step to getting rid of the elderly and the terminally ill,» Archbishop Conti said. «Those who deny this are so focused on the particular question that they fail to see the broader consequences.

«Such a law would change the role of doctors subtly but significantly from carers of the sick to dispatchers of their patients. Legislators, medical personnel and patients alike should resist this move.

«The answer to terminal illness lies in more hospices, properly funded. It is there — as many can testify — that people die with dignity, literally loved to the very threshold of eternity. This is the civilized and compassionate alternative to euthanasia and physician assisted suicide.»

The archbishop added: «To aid suicide, to assist someone to kill themselves, even if motivated by compassion, is effectively to bring about their death and renders the assistant guilty of murder.»

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