The Bishop of Lichfield spoke during Lord Eames’ debate on reducing the levels of suicide among young people in the United Kingdom. He focused his remarks on the relationship between low levels of self-worth amongst young people as a factor that contributes to suicidal thoughts. He also raised particular concerns about the risks of bullying or coercion that young people with disabilities face, specifically as debates about assisted suicide become more widespread, and the need to support children who are refugees or asylum seekers and particularly vulnerable due to a lack of adequate mental health care.
The Lord Bishop of Lichfield: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, for initiating this debate.
The Association for Young People’s Health recently published its key data on adolescence. At present, the statistics show that the levels of self-harm are relatively stable, although for such a sensitive topic there is likely to be low reporting. It is clear that girls are at least three times more likely to self-harm than boys; on the other hand, suicide is much more prevalent among young males, particularly those aged between 20 and 24. This coincides with the evidence from ChildLine. Numbers have fallen fractionally in more recent years but the report questions whether this will continue.
How this correlates with child well-being needs careful consideration. We all remember the United Nations report about the unhappiness of children in this country. ChildLine reports that the number of children contacting it about suicidal feelings has risen for the third year running, including a rise of 33% in the last year. Overall, child well-being in the UK, according to the United Nations, has improved from 21st out of 21 to 16th out of 29 countries. Economic reasons have been stated and there is much correlation with the commentary from the Association for Young People’s Health. Continue reading “Bishop of Lichfield calls for greater support of vulnerable young people in preventing suicide”
Baroness Knight of Collingtreeasked Her Majesty’s Government what action they intend to take in the light of recent analysis of the ratio of boys and girls in United Kingdom families suggesting that sex-selective abortion is taking place.
The Bishop of St Albans asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, there is an opportunity coming up where this can be underlined. At the moment, the procedures for the approval of independent sector places for the termination of pregnancy are being revised. Will Her Majesty’s Government undertake to ensure that they spell out clearly and unequivocally that termination on grounds of gender alone is illegal and that an appeal on gender alone is insufficient to satisfy the mental health criteria of the Abortion Act?
Earl Howe: My Lords, as I have said, the guidance to abortion providers will be updated and that will include the guidance to independent sector providers. It will be made abundantly clear that gender selection is illegal.
“The risks inherent in legalising assisted suicide still outweigh the benefits that might accrue” – Bishop of Chester
On 12th December 2013, the Bishop of Chester spoke in Lord Dubs’ debate on patient choice at the end of life, calling on the Government to resist changing the law to legalise assisted suicide. The Bishop of Sheffield also made his maiden speech in the debate, which can be read here.
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, I join other Members of the House in welcoming the reinforcements to the Bishops’ Benches. I will make three brief points in my contribution, the first of which does not have a direct connection with assisted suicide. We typically have long waiting lists today for transplantation surgery in this country, due to an absence of an adequate supply of donated organs. I hope that we will do as much as we can, and more, to encourage people to carry organ donation consent cards and to engender a culture in society in which transplantation and donation of organs are encouraged, especially for those whose death comes in an untimely and unchosen way. This is a matter of choice at the point of death, as are the things that we are discussing in the main part of this debate.
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.
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.
On 10th October 2013, Baroness Knight of Collingtree askedHer Majesty’s Government what steps they intend to take to ensure that medical professionals offering to perform abortions on the grounds of gender are prosecuted. The Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Peter Forster, asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, does not this case, and in particular the letter from the Director of Public Prosecutions, taken together with the overall fact that, I believe, nearly a quarter of recognised pregnancies are deliberately ended in the womb, call for a comprehensive review of the operation of the Act in its entirety?
Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, I am certainly cognisant of the strong views that are held about this Act and its operation. One of the clear things emerging from this case is the great need to have clearer guidance for doctors on how to carry out their functions and the tests that are set down in Section 1 of the Abortion Act. I am confident that that will now be addressed. Certainly, the Crown Prosecution Service stands ready to assist in any way to provide that clarity.
On 9th September 2013, the Bishop of Bristol, the Rt Revd Mike Hill, received an answer to two written question on the Liverpool Care Pathway.
The Lord Bishop of Bristol: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to ensure that quality statement six (holistic support—spiritual and religious) of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’s 2011 quality standard for end of life care for adults is embedded in the end of life care proposals to replace the Liverpool Care Pathway.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the Healthcare Chaplaincy is considered a “specialist service”, as referred to in recommendation 22 of the Independent Review of the Liverpool Care Pathway.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): The Government’s intention is for the Liverpool Care Pathway to be phased out over the next 6-12 months in favour of an individual approach to end of life care for each patient, with a personalised care plan backed up by condition-specific guidance and a named senior clinician responsible for its implementation.
Spiritual and religious support is an essential part of first-class end of life care. However we have yet to set out the specific responses to the Independent Review’s recommendations. Over the coming weeks, the Department will be working with partner organisations, stakeholders and charities across health and care to inform a full system-wide response to the Review’s recommendations later in the autumn.