Tuesday, 10 January 2012

A very good statement in so far as it goes

Lest it be thought that I have nothing good to say about contemporary Anglicanism, here is a helpful statement issued on behalf of the Church of England in response to the (essentially bogus) Falconer Commission for Assisted Dying.
As far as it goes. To be slightly critical, one would have expected a statement from the Church to make at least some mention of the Christian respect for the sanctity of life which underlies both this statement and the present law.
I understand the arguments against referring to that: theological arguments are all too readily dismissed in a highly secularised age. But is the Church just another socio-political pressure group among many, or should we dare to say something positive about the spiritual foundations of society, something which makes explicit mention of a 'higher' authority? As I say, I know the arguments........ we have to be be taken seriously by society as a whole........I'm just not convinced by them. The Church should be the Church. It is our failure to be so over the years and to make the case in season and out of season for the reasonableness of the Christian faith, for all kinds of superficially good motives as well as some indefensible ones, which has allowed secularism to proceed largely unchecked.

Here is the statement in full - a welcome contribution to the debate nonetheless:

Statement on the report of the Commission for Assisted Dying (5 January 2012)

The 'Commission on Assisted Dying' is a self-appointed group that excluded from its membership anyone with a known objection to assisted suicide. In contrast, the majority of commissioners, appointed personally by Lord Falconer, were already in favour of changing the law to legitimise assisted suicide. Lord Falconer has, himself, been a leading proponent for legitimising assisted suicide, for some years.

The commission undertook a quest to find effective safeguards that could be put in place to avoid abuse of any new law legitimising assisted suicide. Unsurprisingly, given the commission's composition, it has claimed to have found such safeguards.

Unlike the commissioners, we are unconvinced that the commission has been successful in its quest. It has singularly failed to demonstrate that vulnerable people are not placed at greater risk under its proposals than is currently the case under present legislation. In spite of the findings of research that it commissioned, it has failed adequately to take into account the fact that in all jurisdictions where assisted suicide or euthanasia is permitted, there are breaches of safeguards as well as notable failures in monitoring and reporting.

The present law strikes an excellent balance between safeguarding hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people and treating with fairness and compassion those few people who, acting out of selfless motives, have assisted a loved one to die.

Put simply, the most effective safeguard against abuse is to leave the law as it is. What Lord Falconer has done is to argue that it is morally acceptable to put many vulnerable people at increased risk so that the aspirations of a small number of individuals, to control the time, place and means of their deaths, might be met. Such a calculus of risk is unnecessary and wholly unacceptable.

Rt Revd James Newcome, Bishop of Carlisle

(Lead Bishop for Healthcare Issues)

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