“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”