Clerics oppose 'assisted suicide' bill

RELIGIOUS leaders in Essex are uniting to oppose proposals which would allow “assisted suicide”, it has emerged.Christians, Jews, Muslims and Sikh leaders have hit out at the Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill, saying the principals of human life and medical care are at stake.

RELIGIOUS leaders in Essex are uniting to oppose proposals which would allow “assisted suicide”, it has emerged.

Christians, Jews, Muslims and Sikh leaders have hit out at the Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill, saying the principals of human life and medical care are at stake. The Bill is to get its second reading in the House of Lords next month.

Former human rights lawyer Lord Joffe has said the measures proposed in his bill would “not seek to impose anything on anybody” but would propose another “end of life option”.

The private member's bill would make it legal for doctors to prescribe drugs that a terminally-ill person could take to end his or her life.


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But at yesterday's press conference of religious leaders in Brentwood, faith leaders said the answer lay in better care for the elderly, not assisted suicide.

The Right Reverend John Gladwin, Bishop of Chelmsford, stressed the argument was not simply between those who are religious and non-believers, saying that many atheists were also opposing the bill.

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He said: “It is a bad bill and should be opposed in principal - it is bad in terms of the needs of those who are dying and in terms of forsaking the principals of medical care and human life that we have long-held dear.”

He said the bill would be like asking medical staff to “place a loaded gun” against someone who is close to death.

“Do we want people in our society to be for responsible for that action?” he said.

In a joint statement, the leaders said “supportive care” and not assisted suicide was the answer, suggesting modern drugs meant nobody should have to die in pain.

“Supportive care means pain control, symptom relief and skilled nursing, together with a full range of additional services - counselling, complementary therapies, spiritual care, creative activities, physiotherapy and bereavement support.

“A team of professionals works together to help the patient and family.”

It was also suggested that more money should be poured into hospice funding to help improve the care of those who are dying.

The Bishop of Brentwood, the Rt. Rev. Thomas McMahon, said: “It's not just about buildings but the care provided by hospices, Macmillan nurses and district nurses in people's homes and day car facilities.

“In addition we want to encourage policy makers to bring the valuable experience of supportive care into mainstream healthcare provision.”

The Rev. Charles Masheder, a trustee of St Clare Hospice, near Harlow, said hospices were being put on the “back foot” by the funding levels from the Government, which he said is normally between a quarter and a third of the total amount.

The faith leaders said they were planning to continue lobbying in the coming month before the next reading of the bill on May 12.

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