Assisted suicide is “not the way forward for a compassionate and caring society”, over 20 faith leaders have warned.
In a joint statement ahead of Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill, to be debated in the House of Lords tomorrow, the leaders say better access to end-of-life care should be prioritised instead.
Among those who signed the letter are the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and Dr Shuja Shafi – the Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain.
Under Lord Falconer’s proposals, terminally ill patients thought to have less than six months to live would be allowed to obtain lethal drugs to kill themselves.
The Peer’s previous attempt to liberalise the law was defeated in the House of Lords by 194 votes to 141 in 2009.
In their statement, the religious leaders caution that if the bill was passed the vulnerable would suffer from an “increased risk of distress and coercion at a time when they most require love and support”.
“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”, they comment.
Explaining that each “human life is of intrinsic value and ought to be affirmed and cherished”, they warn that Lord Falconer’s 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”, they write.
The leaders say: “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.”
“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”, they conclude.
Among the other signatories to the letter are the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster and the Director of the Network of Sikh Organisations (UK).