Legalising assisted suicide in Guernsey would be dangerous for everyone on the island, church leaders say, and politicians should instead focus on caring for the vulnerable.
Representatives from dozens of island churches took the “exceptional” step of writing an open letter to citizens, warning: “As a community we need to celebrate and support all of life and not actively seek to terminate life.”
Their comments come ahead of legislators considering a proposal which would allow people to kill themselves with the assistance of a doctor.
Guernsey’s chief minister, Gavin St Pier, is backing the proposal, claiming it is “about giving people choice”.
But the religious leaders say ‘choice’ “cannot be the primary argument for life and death issues”, adding that an individual’s decision is never made in isolation.
A ‘choice’ by the State to introduce assisted suicide, they said, “will change our island and will be seen as a threat by people living with various disabilities, vulnerable people and ultimately, perhaps, by all of us, as we approach the end of our lives or journey with those we love at that final stage”.
Care not killing
The representatives include people from Church of England, Methodist and Roman Catholic churches – a total of 41 – and include pastors, ministers and wardens.
While they welcome the “attention and concern” for people at the end of life, the leaders say the assisted suicide plan is misplaced and dangerous.
“We believe the States of Guernsey should focus on the care of vulnerable people, support the Les Bourgs Hospice, increase mental health provision and care well for those with age-related dementia.”
Urging the people of Guernsey to “consider the profound change” that assisted suicide would introduce, they say their hope is that it is rejected by politicians.
Guernsey has the freedom to pass its own laws but the UK Government can intervene if there are ramifications for the UK. The matter would then be brought before the Privy Council.
Assisted suicide remains illegal in the UK, with a Bill to legalise it in England and Wales soundly defeated in the House of Commons in 2015.