CofE bishop backs assisted dying

Mon 14 Jul 2014
By Antony Bushfield

The Bishop of Buckingham has become the first serving bishop to publicly support assisted dying.

The Rt Rev Alan Wilson said honouring the 'sanctity of life' should include a consideration for the quality of life as people approach death.

Legislation that would allow terminally ill people in England and Wales receive help to end their lives is due to be discussed by peers on Friday.

The proposals were tabled by Labour peer Lord Falconer and would mean those with less than six months to live could be given assistance to die.

Before any decision could be made two doctors would have to confirm the patient was terminally ill and had reached the decision without any pressure from friends of family.

Bishop Alan said: "I have come to support assisted dying, not assisted suicide, precisely because I do believe strongly in the sanctity of life.

"Part of honouring this is respecting people's integrity to make decisions about themselves.

"If Britain really does contain 500,000 old people who want out because they're treated so poorly the answer seems to me to improve their lives not degrade their deaths.

"If we got a huge influx of requests under the Falconer rules, we ought to ask ourselves why and what we're going to do about it, not sweep everything under the carpet by preventing them from expressing their reaction to being treated poorly.

"That in itself is only another form of disrespect.

"I think there is a discussion to be had of the sort that is going on right now that I actually think matters and has to be had and religious figures should not think is taboo."

At the weekend a former Archbishop of Canterbury said he will back the assisted dying bill in the House of Lords.

Lord Carey said he had changed his opinion and no longer thought a change in the law was ‘anti-Christian’.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has also signalled his support for the bill.

The former Anglican Archbishop of South Africa said he revered the sanctity of life 'but not at any cost'.

Writing for The Times the current Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said: “It would be very naive to think that many of the elderly people who are abused and neglected each year, as well as many severely disabled individuals, would not be put under pressure to end their lives if assisted suicide were permitted by law.

"It would be equally naive to believe, as the Assisted Dying Bill suggests, that such pressure could be recognised in every instance by doctors given the task of assessing requests for assisted suicide.

"Abuse, coercion and intimidation can be slow instruments in the hands of the unscrupulous, creating pressure on vulnerable people who are encouraged to 'do the decent thing'".

Bishop of Buckingham, Rt Rev Alan Wilson, spoke on Premier's News Hour:

Premier's Antony Bushfield's full interview with the Bishop of Buckingham is available on The News Hour catch up at here.

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