Protect those who need it most, says Bishop Nazir-Ali

People at the end of their lives need support from families and hospices, not assisted suicide, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali has said.

His comments come as Christopher Graffius, writing in The Catholic Times, said that hospices can help to “overcome pain” and “preserve dignity”.

Dr Nazir-Ali, in The Daily Telegraph on Saturday, also praised the hospice movement and palliative care, saying they can help to relieve people of “as much pain as possible”.

But he warned that the “extreme situations” which have been given widespread media coverage in recent months should not be a reason to change legislation.

Hard cases make bad law, he said.

Mr Graffius said that hospices “have the potential to be the centre of the argument against euthanasia because their work provides the reassurance to the fears and because their culture of care can still be recognised by the public for the good it is”.

He commented that assisted suicide is “becoming a liberal cause with the media representatives of the chattering classes rarely ignoring the opportunity to declare their support”.

“All this feeds into public opinion”, he added.

He went on to point out that in Holland, where euthanasia is legal, voluntary euthanasia has rapidly included involuntary euthanasia.

This, he said, “endangers everyone”.

Dr Nazir-Ali said: “As Dame Cicely Saunders, the founder of the Hospice movement, has said, ‘Our last days are not necessarily lost days'”.

The Bishop added: “Again and again, people have told me how much they have learned about themselves and others at this time in their lives.

“It is simply a mistake to emphasise the autonomy of the individual, especially at this point. It is relatedness that matters.

“Rather than seeing themselves as unwanted and alone, people, at this stage of life, should feel themselves drawn into a circle of love and care where they will be made as comfortable as possible and valued for who they are.

“It is not necessary always to be independent. Human beings depend upon one another at every stage of life and this one is no different.”

He also pointed out that “those seeking assisted suicide are very few compared to the hundreds of thousands who die each year cared for by their loved ones, with the help of hospices, pain clinics and others in the caring professions”.

And he laid out an alternative to the “vociferous campaign to legalise assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia”.

“This involves using all our science to relieve suffering”, he said.

Dr Nazir-Ali concluded: “It means bearing one another’s burdens and building a society based not on atomistic individualism but on a strong sense of inter-dependence and on the importance of relationships.

“It requires that we should value the person at every stage of life and be willing in humility to serve them and to learn from them.

“Let us draw back from the brink. Let us not place ourselves in moral jeopardy and let us continue to protect those who need our protection the most.”

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