British Prelate Denounces Assisted Suicide Bill

Says Law Could Persuade Sick of “Duty to Die”

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CARDIFF, Wales, MARCH 26, 2009 ( The archbishop of Cardiff is warning against a bill, currently being discussed in British Parliament, which will decriminalize assisted suicide in some cases.

Archbishop Peter Smith wrote this in an article published by The Times, affirming that the Coroners and Justice Bill, an amendment to the current suicide act, “aims to bring within the law predatory internet websites that promote or encourage suicide.”

Yet, he explained, some parliamentary members are “attempting to hijack these sensible proposals so that, at the same time as they outlaw encouragement of suicide, they also want to allow assistance of it in the case of people who go abroad to kill themselves.”

The proposed amendment would make it lawful for people to assist others to go abroad to commit suicide.

“But isn’t making assisted suicide easier itself tantamount to encouraging the act?” he added.

Most vulnerable

He argued against those who try to differentiate between malicious and compassionate encouragement of suicide, stating that “most people don’t fall into these extreme categories.”

When talking about changing the law, the archbishop observed, we need to consider “the seriously ill or incapacitated elderly parent who feels guilty at the burden of care he or she is putting on a family hard-pressed by the recession, or the sick relative with money to leave behind who could be subtly encouraged to leave this world earlier than planned.”

He noted that many ordinary people like these “have already heard suggestions” that they are wasting resources and the lives of others, and thus “should consider whether they have a duty to die.”

Right now, the prelate affirmed, they are protected by the law that makes assisted suicide illegal. However, “if it is made legal in certain situations, that would open a door not just for the self-possessed and self-confident minority who are sure they want it, but for many more who might persuade themselves, or be subtly persuaded by others, that that is the best course for them — and for those around them.”

Peter Saunders, director of Care Not Killing, an alliance that aims to promote palliative care while upholding laws against euthanasia, said to The Times, “The government is, commendably, trying to protect vulnerable people by tightening up the suicide act to outlaw internet websites that encourage suicide.”

He continued: “And yet here we have the euthanasia lobby trying, at the same time and in the same bill, to encourage suicide by removing any risk of prosecution for anyone assisting someone to go abroad for euthanasia or assisted suicide. The result would be a law that discouraged suicide with one hand and encouraged it with the other. That would be farcical as well as tragic.”

“Make no mistake,” he said, “this amendment is just a precursor to a more general euthanasia law.”

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