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Assisted Dying Bill: Faith Leaders’ Statement

16/07/2014 10:39 am

The Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth and the Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain are amongst the 24 faith leaders who have today voiced their shared concerns about Lord Falconer's Assisted Dying Bill.

In a joint statement to Members of the House of Lords they say:"While we may have come to the position of opposing this bill from different religious perspectives, we are agreed that the Assisted Dying Bill invites the prospect of an erosion of carefully tuned values and practices that are essential for the future development of a society that respects and cares for all."

The leaders and senior representatives are drawn from a broad coalition of Christian churches and denominations, and from the Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain and Zoroastrian faiths.Lord Falconer's Bill will be debated in the House of Lords on 18 July 2014.

Statement in full

To Members of the House of Lords:

As leaders of faith communities, we wish to state our joint response to Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill. We do so out of deep human concern that if enacted, this bill would have a serious detrimental effect on the wellbeing of individuals and on the nature and shape of our society.

‪Every human life is of intrinsic value and ought to be affirmed and cherished. This is central to our laws and our social relationships; to undermine this in any way would be a grave error. The Assisted Dying Bill would allow individuals to participate actively in ending others’ lives, in effect colluding in the judgment that they are of no further value. This is not the way forward for a compassionate and caring society.

‪Vulnerable individuals must be cared for and protected even if this calls for sacrifice on the part of others. Each year many thousands of elderly and vulnerable people suffer abuse; sadly, often at the hands of their families or carers. Being perceived as a burden or as a financial drain is a terrible affliction to bear, leading in many cases to passivity, depression and self-loathing. The desire to end one’s life may, at any stage of life, be prompted by depression or external pressure; any suggestion of a presumption that such a decision is ‘rational’ does not do justice to the facts. The Assisted Dying Bill can only add to the pressures that many vulnerable, terminally ill people will feel, placing them at increased risk of distress and coercion at a time when they most require love and support.

‪A key consideration is whether the Assisted Dying Bill will place more vulnerable people at risk than it seeks to help. We have seen, in recent years that even rigorous regulation and careful monitoring have not prevented the most serious lapses of trust and care in some parts of the NHS and within a number of Care Homes. It is naïve to believe that, if assisted suicide were to be legalised, proposed safeguards would not similarly be breached with the most disastrous of consequences, by their nature irrevocable.

‪The bill raises the issue of what sort of society we wish to become: one in which life is to be understood primarily in terms of its usefulness and individuals evaluated in terms of their utility or one in which every person is supported, protected and cherished even if, at times, they fail to cherish themselves. While we may have come to the position of opposing this bill from different religious perspectives, we are agreed that the Assisted Dying Bill invites the prospect of an erosion of carefully tuned values and practices that are essential for the future development of a society that respects and cares for all. Better access to high-quality palliative care, greater support for carers and enhanced end of life services will be among the hallmarks of a truly compassionate society and it is to those ends that our energies ought to be harnessed.

Signatories:

Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia
Chairman, Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha

Mr Yousif Al-Khoei
Director Al-Khoei Foundation

‪Rev Dr Martyn Atkins
General Secretary of the Methodist Church and Secretary of the Conference

Bishop Eric Brown
Administrative Bishop, New Testament Church of God

Mr Malcolm M Deboo
President, Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe

Rev Jonathan Edwards
Deputy Moderator Free Churches Group

Pastor John Glass
General Superintendent, Elim Pentecostal Churches

Revd David Grosch-Miller and Mr John Ellis
Moderators of the United Reformed Church General Assembly

Colonel David Hinton
Chief Secretary, The Salvation Army United Kingdom

Rev Stephen Keyworth
Faith and Society Team Leader, Baptist Union of Great Britain

Ayatollah Fazel Milani
Dean of the International Colleges of Islamic Studies

‪Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis
Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth

Most Rev Dr Barry Morgan
Archbishop of Wales

His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols
Archbishop of Westminster

Rev John Partington
National Leader, Assemblies of God

Mr Ramesh Pattni
Secretary General, Hindu Forum of Britain

Bishop Wilton Powell
National Overseer, Church of God of Prophecy

Maulana Shahid Raza OBE
Leicester Central Mosque, Leicester

Venerable Bogoda Seelawimala
Chief Sangha Nayake of Great Britain, London Buddhist Vihara

Dr Shuja Shafi
Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain

‪Dr Natubhai Shah
Chairman/CEO Jain Network

Lord Indarjit Singh
Director Network of Sikh Organisations (UK)

‪Most Rev and Rt Hon Justin Welby
Archbishop of Canterbury

Related

Visit our full section on the Assisted Dying Bill 2014-15 - resources available.

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