Weakening the law on assisted suicide would be a “disaster”, Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has cautioned this week.
The Archbishop commented: “To say that there are certain conditions in which life is legally declared to be not worth living is a major shift in the moral and spiritual atmosphere in which we live.”
And Dr Williams said that any erosion of the protection of the vulnerable, or of medical practitioners, should be rejected by Christians.
The Archbishop made the comments at the Church of England’s General Synod meeting in London during a debate on a recent report which advocated assisted suicide.
General Synod members overwhelmingly rejected the report’s conclusions.
Speaking in the debate, the Archbishop commented on the change in the abortion law in the UK in 1967.
He said: “The default position on abortion has shifted quite clearly over the past 40 years, and to see the default position shifting on the sanctity of life would be a disaster.”
Dr Williams commented that the Synod does not believe “that we should cling to life at all costs”, and said: “We are committed, as Christians, to the belief that every life in every imaginable situation is infinitely precious in the sight of God.”
The Archbishop also noted that “it is front-line physicians who are going to find themselves more and more in a deeply uncomfortable – perhaps unsustainable – place in all this”.
Dr Williams concluded by commenting that he hoped any legal change “which has the effect of minimising the protection of the most vulnerable as well as of our medical professionals” would face opposition from Christians in the UK.
The Synod was debating a report which says that adults who are thought to have less than a year to live should be able to ask doctors for drugs which would end their life.
But Dr Peter Saunders, campaign director of the pro-life group Care Not Killing, has said the report is “seriously flawed”.