On 23rd May 2019 Baroness Meacher asked the Government “what assessment they have made of whether the threat of prosecutions under the Suicide Act 1961 is causing suffering to mentally competent, terminally ill people at the end of their lives.” The Bishop of Winchester, Rt Revd Tim Dakin, asked a follow-up question:
On Monday 6th March 2017, Baroness Jay of Paddington tabled a debate in the House of Lords, asking the Government “what assessment they have made of recent legislation on assisted dying in North America; and whether those laws provide an appropriate basis for legislation in England and Wales.” The Bishop of Worcester, the Rt Revd John Inge, spoke in the debate.
The Lord Bishop of Worcester: My Lords, I oppose assisted dying not on religious, but on human grounds. Surely the only place in North America where legislation has been in place long enough to draw any reasonable conclusions is Oregon. The claim of those pressing for assisted suicide here, that there have been no documented cases of abuse or coercion in the two decades since it was passed, is highly contentious. Continue reading “Bishop of Worcester speaks against legalisation of assisted suicide in UK”
In 1936 the House of Lords debated the Voluntary Euthanasia Legalisation Bill, the first of its kind to come before the UK Parliament. Its rejection set the pattern for future Bills in both Houses for the eight decades to come.
The Voluntary Euthanasia Legalisation Bill 1936 sought to allow mentally competent adults with an incurable condition, accompanied by severe pain, to have assistance in ending their lives. It was proposed by Arthur Ponsonby, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, a former leader of the Labour Party in the Lords and minister under Ramsay MacDonald. He did so in place of the late Lord Moynihan, who a year before had helped found the British Voluntary Euthanasia Society.The Bill was opposed on pragmatic as well as moral grounds by a majority of Peers and rejected at the end of Second Reading in a Division of the House. Among those speaking against were the Archbishop of Canterbury, Cosmo Lang and the Bishop of Norwich, Bertram Pollock.
On the 11th September 2015 the House of Commons considered the Assisted Dying Bill, a private member’s bill tabled by Rob Marris MP. Caroline Spelman MP, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, spoke during the debate.
MPs rejected the Bill in the subsequent vote by 330 to 118 votes.
Mrs Caroline Spelman (Meriden) (Con): I respect the sincerely held views of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton South West (Rob Marris). The whole nation will be looking at our debate on this issue today and it is right that we show respect for the strongly held views on all sides, but I beg to differ with him.
Historically, our society has abhorred suicide and based that view on the principle of the sanctity of life, but that argument is becoming harder to make in an increasingly secular society. The view that life is a gift from God with all that it entails, including pain and suffering, and that it is not for us to bring it to an end, is perceived to be at odds with the prevailing view of our rights, including a perceived right to end our own life. Continue reading “Assisted Dying Bill – speech by Caroline Spelman”
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.
The 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”
“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.
The 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”
“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.
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’”
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:
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 . 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 .
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”
“what will we be heard to be saying about the worthwhileness of life under certain conditions? Do we, by legally accommodating the mental suffering of some, debase the currency for all? These are not trivial considerations; nor are they parochially religious ones.” – Rowan Williams, 12/5/06
On 12th May 2006 the House of Lords debated a Private Members’ Bill from Lord Joffe: the ‘Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill’. The then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, was one of three Lords Spiritual who spoke against, in a debate that lasted over seven hours and featured 90 speakers.
The Bill would have allowed a doctor to prescribe medication upon request from a terminally ill patient with capacity, so that by means of self-administration, that patient could end his or her life.
Following the debate a vote took place on whether to allow the Bill to proceed any further. Peers voted to not allow it to proceed by 148 to 100. 14 Lords Spiritual joined those voting against the Bill.
A transcript of the Archbishop’s speech follows:
The Archbishop of Canterbury: My Lords, opposition to the principle of this Bill is not confined to people of religious conviction—as we have been reminded by the noble, monotheistic and utilitarian Lord, Lord Carlile—and it would be a lazy counter-argument to suggest that such opposition can be written off because it comes only from those committed to a world view not universally shared. It is worth remembering that the secular or “enlightened” view of human autonomy assumed by many of the Bill’s defenders is no less a particular world view rather than a self-evident and universal truth. Continue reading “Archive speeches: Rowan Williams on Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill”
The Bishop of Bristol, the Rt Revd Mike Hill spoke during Baroness Jay’s question for short debate assessing the Director of Public Prosecutions Guidelines for prosecution for assisted suicide. The Bishop highlighted number of cases which have been inspected by the DPP and the need to prevent the original intention of legislation gradually slipping into a very different definition and drew attention to the case of Belgium where the law to allow assisted suicide has been recently extended to include terminally ill children. Lord Faulks responded to the debate for the Government and made no new legislativee commitments.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they continue to be satisfied with the Director of Public Prosecutions’ Guidelines on prosecution for assisted suicide.
The Lord Bishop of Bristol: My Lords, I add my own voice of gratitude to the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, for introducing the debate tonight. The DPP’s guidelines rightly give a central place to compassion in this vexed area. After more than 150 cases have been actively inspected by the DPP, it should now be clear to all that where a suffering patient wishes freely and without coercion to end their life, their family or friends who, motivated wholly by compassion, assist him or her to do so will not be prosecuted. There are many reasons for not moving beyond that legal position as some other countries have, but I shall refer to just one. Continue reading “Assisted Suicide Debate – Bishop of Bristol Warns Against Change in the Law”