Assisted Dying Bill Begins Passage Through House of Commons

Catholic Union Urges Protection of Society’s Weakest and Most Vulnerable

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A bill that could give terminally ill elderly patients in England and Wales the option to end their own lives began its passage through the House of Commons today.

Tabled by Lord Falconer last year, the bill would give patients access to drugs with which to end their lives.

The Catholic Union (CU), an initiative which seeks to bring the moral and social teaching of the Catholic Church into the public sphere, is urging MPs and peers to consider very carefully the implications of such legislation on the weakest and most vulnerable of society.

In November 2013, CU President Lord Brennan, together with Lord Carlisle and Lady Butler-Schloss, raised their concerns on assisted dying in a paper published by Living & Dying Well in which they said “’fundamental change’ to the law and would make it lawful for doctors to “involve themselves in deliberately bringing about the deaths of others.”

“As it stands, the bill is asking Parliament to sign a blank cheque,” …“We should not forget that public safety is itself a key principle of legislation: it cannot be offloaded onto others.

“The law exists not only, or even primarily, to punish offenders but also to indicate those actions of which, as a society, we disapprove.”

It added: “One of those actions is aiding and abetting other people’s suicides…. Licensing doctors to supply lethal drugs to some of their patients to facilitate their suicides would represent a major change to the criminal law.”

“If Parliament is to be asked to give serious consideration to such proposals, it needs clear evidence that the law as it stands is not fit for purpose. No such evidence has been produced.”

CU Chairman Robert Rigby noted: “This legislation is amongst some of the most significant and far reaching we have seen in relation to the rights of patients and families at an often fraught and emotionally charged time of their lives.  This country has a justifiably long and proud record in the development and delivery of palliative care, that encourages and enables the end stages of life to be faced with dignity and respect for the individual, whilst preserving the sanctity of life.  It would be far better for time and resources to be spent in further development of these excellent activities, rather than opening the way to hastened death, under the cover of supposed free choice, when it is in fact quite the opposite.”

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