Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Welby opposes Assisted Dying Bill

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has described the Assisted Dying Bill as mistaken and dangerous

Lord Falconer's Bill to legalise assisted dying has drawn passionate condemnation from the current head of the Church of England, the Most Rev Justin Welby.

While Lord Carey, who left office as Archbishop of Canterbury in 2002, spoke of how he had dropped his long-standing opposition to legalising assisted dying, Archbishop Welby described the Bill to be debated in the House of Lords on Friday as "mistaken and dangerous".

Writing in the Times, Archbishop Welby said he understood how seeing a loved one suffer prompted the desire to "do almost anything" to alleviate their suffering.

He cited the agony he suffered seeing his own seven-month-old daughter Johanna, who was fatally injured in a car crash in France, die in 1983.

But he warned that the "deep personal demands" of one situation should not blind people to the needs of others including more than a half a million elderly people who are estimated to be abused every year in the UK.

"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," he wrote.

"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'."

Archbishop Welby said even where there was no overt pressure, a law to permit assisted suicide as proposed by Lord Falconer would be "bound" to lead to sensitive individuals feeling they ought to stop "being a burden to others."

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