Bishop of Wakefield takes part in debate on assisted suicide

On 5th December 2013, the Bishop of Wakefield took part in a debate on assisted suicide. The Bishop of Derby also spoke during the debate – his comments can be read here.

Bishop Stephen Platten
Bishop Stephen Platten

The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, I imagine that after clinicians, clergy—of a variety of faiths—are those who have the most frequent experience of being alongside those who are terminally ill and dying. That gives clergy no privilege in our opinions, but it does offer us a unique set of experiences in the care and support of the dying.

Part of that support, from all concerned in such caring, is reassurance to those who are terminally ill. The framing of the present law is integral to such reassurance. Fears of being a family burden, uncertainty about one’s own self-worth or society’s pressures on limited resources can undermine the feelings of the terminally ill. That calls out of us compassion. Choice is a two-edged sword.

Some have the inner strength to respond and act decisively in the face of possible imminent death—that word “possible” is crucial because predictions are never certain—but such inner strength is probably not there within the majority of us. My concern is not just for those who might opt for assisted dying, but for those who do not. If the law were to be changed, those people would be presented with an unenviable and perhaps impossible choice. We should approach arguments for assisted dying with great caution.


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