Divisions – Assisted Dying Bill

On 16th January 2015, a number of bishops took part in divisions in the House of Lords, during the Committee Stage of Lord Falconer of Thoroton’s Assisted Dying Bill.

House of Lords Division Lobby
House of Lords Division Lobby

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Bishops take part in Committee Stage of Assisted Dying Bill

On 16th January 2015, the Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Revd James Newcome, and the Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Peter Forster, spoke during the Committee Stage of Lord Falconer of Thoroton’s Assisted Dying Bill. Subjects debated included the terminology used in the text and title of the Bill, and clarifications of the relationship between patients and the medical practitioners required to treat them. The debate on the Bill was suspended at the end of the day. The Bill is unlikely to make further progress during the current Parliament. There were also two divisions on the Bill, and more details can be found here.

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Bishop of Bristol takes part in debate on Assisted Dying Bill

On 7th November 2014, the House of Lords held the Committee Stage of Lord Falconer of Thoroton’s Assisted Dying Bill. The Bishop of Bristol, the Rt Revd Mike Hill, spoke to two amendments that he sponsored and co-sponsored. The amendments sought to strengthen the decision-making process surrounding the application and ingestion of the drugs that would be used to enable someone to commit suicide. Following a short debate on the amendments, Lord Falconer agreed to bring back amendments at Report Stage dealing with the period of time between application and ingestion. However, he did not agree to make further changes to his Bill, as he claimed that the Bishop’s concerns were dealt with elsewhere in the Bill.The Bishop did not press his amendments to a vote.

14.03 Bishop of BristolThe Lord Bishop of Bristol: My Lords, I may not be the only one who is a bit confused about what is happening. I stand to speak in support of Amendment 12 tabled by my noble friend Lord McColl, but I would like to address noble Lords’ attention to Amendment 77, which stands in my name. I rather hoped it might have been grouped with Amendment 85, but they stand separately grouped now. I would like to reserve the right to come back to Amendment 85 at a later occasion and I hope a later occasion will occur for that to happen.

Amendment 77 deals with something slightly different. Quite rightly, most of our debate today has focused on the decision to apply for assisted suicide and to sign the declaration. However, it is fair to say that the request for assistance with suicide involves two different and discrete decisions: first, there is the decision to apply for it, and then there is the decision to ingest fatal drugs. The Bill makes it clear that there has to be a minimum of 14 days between the application and the actual ingestion of the drugs, except in the case of somebody who is given a prognosis of a month or less and then the time lag reduces to six days. Continue reading “Bishop of Bristol takes part in debate on Assisted Dying Bill”

Bishop of Carlisle speaks against Assisted Dying Bill – new legislation would destroy balance of current law

“By going down this track we would be sending a clear message to society, and especially its most vulnerable members, about individual lives having a different value according to their circumstances.”

On 18th July 2014, the Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Revd James Newcome, spoke during the Second Reading of the Assisted Dying Bill. The Bishop spoke against the Bill, raising concerns that the proposed Bill would destroy the balance currently provided by legislation, and highlighting the risks associated with the Bill in relation to the welfare of vulnerable individuals. 

14.06.09 Bishop of CarlisleThe Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, a word that is frequently used in your Lordships’ House is “balance”. It has already been used several times in this debate—in particular, by my noble and learned friend Lady Butler-Sloss, the noble Lord, Lord Condon, the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, and the noble Lords, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard and Lord Wills, and probably many others whom I may have missed. We constantly look for balance in our legislation and in the way that the legislation is applied. Continue reading “Bishop of Carlisle speaks against Assisted Dying Bill – new legislation would destroy balance of current law”

Bishop of Bristol speaks against Assisted Dying Bill: raises concerns about ‘unintended consequences’

“Many of us who are opposed to the Bill are greatly concerned by the unintended consequences that it will inevitably bring into play. It is simply not good enough for those who support the Bill to dismiss out of hand this genuine concern. It is for them to give us consistent evidence that our fears are unfounded. Sadly, the available evidence appears to raise, rather than allay, anxiety.”

On 18th July 2014, the Bishop of Bristol, the Rt Revd Mike Hill, took part in the Second Reading debate of the Assisted Dying Bill. The Bishop spoke against the Bill, focusing on the unintended consequences that the Bill would present, if passed.

14.03 Bishop of Bristol

The Lord Bishop of Bristol: My Lords, many of us will speak today in the name of compassion, but, as is clear, we shall take very different views in terms of what compassion looks like in relation to those who are suffering unbearably and, in particular, as to whether my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer’s Bill is fit for the purposes he and his supporters pursue with such vigour. Continue reading “Bishop of Bristol speaks against Assisted Dying Bill: raises concerns about ‘unintended consequences’”

Assisted Dying Bill – Archbishop of York speaks against

The Archbishop of York, Most Rev John Sentamu, spoke on 18th July 2014 in the Second Reading of the Assisted Dying Bill in the House of Lords.  His speech follows in full:

Archbishop of York

My Lords, let me state at the outset that the ‘official’ Church of England position was made very clear on 9th July 2005, when the General Synod voted on a motion referring to the joint submission of the C of E House of Bishops and the Roman Catholic Bishops’ Conference to your Lordships’ House Select Committee [1].  The motion argued strongly against making assisted suicide or euthanasia lawful. The vote was carried by 297 votes to 1.

This position was reaffirmed in a General Synod motion in 2012 [2].

My Lords, this present Bill is not about relieving pain or suffering. It makes that quite clear in its definition of a terminally ill patient to include those whose progressive illness can be relieved but not reversed.   This bill is about asserting a philosophy, which not only Christians, but also other thoughtful people of goodwill who have had experience in care for the dying must find incredible: that is, the ancient Stoic philosophy that ending one’s life in circumstances of distress is an assertion of human freedom.   That it cannot be.   Human freedom is won only by becoming reconciled with the need to die, and by affirming the human relations we have with other people.    Accepting the approach of death is not the attitude of passivity that we may think it to be.   Dying well is the positive achievement of a task that belongs with our humanity.   It is unlike all other tasks given to us in life, but it expresses the value we set on life as no other approach to death can do.    Continue reading “Assisted Dying Bill – Archbishop of York speaks against”