Journalist Matthew Syed wrote that his grandfather, who died at the age of 98, had been the most compelling man he has ever met. He had been a huge influence on him and his older brother, Andrew. Matthew remembers them praying together and ‘almost every time I happened upon them, they were either debating or laughing.’ His grandfather was Philip Heard, much loved member of Carey Baptist Church, Reading. He once told him that the years after his retirement had been some of his happiest. Matthew Syed wanted this to be loud and clear, ‘because it would be awful if we allowed the idea to take hold that getting old is, by definition, degrading. Indeed, it seems to me that we should celebrate old age far more. Talking to grandad, a man who had deep wisdom, was like a daily education.’
Matthew had been conflicted by the news of the 75 year old nurse who ended her life because she felt that ‘old age was no fun.’ He respected her right to die, but said that if his grandfather had made a similar choice at 75, he would have lost one of the most meaningful relationships of his life, and he would have lost much of value, too. ‘To have lost him six months earlier, a year earlier, a decade earlier would have been a tragedy beyond words: for him, for his family, for friends that would have been robbed of his wisdom and example.’ He concludes that in the conflict between two values — the compassion to sustain life and the humanity to alleviate suffering —our moral intuitions fail us.[i]
Secular moral intuitions may fail but Scriptural values are clear. Which is why it’s surprising to read that the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey has said that he is in favour of the assisted suicide Bill. He believes that laws can be constructed that will be strong enough to protect vulnerable people, even though the evidence from other countries shows that isn’t the case.
This kind of thinking is ‘criminally naïve,’ said Revd Brian McCarthy, national advisor on medical ethics to the Church of England. ‘Some half a million elderly people are abused every year – how do we make absolutely certain that someone isn’t put under pressure by a relative who may have an interest in them ending their lives prematurely?’ [ii]
The Church of England opposes the bill, stating that, ‘Every person’s life is of immeasurable value and ought to be affirmed, respected and cherished by society. This is true even when some people no longer view their own lives as being of any further value.’
We totally agree. At present it is not against the law to commit suicide, but it is against the law to encourage or assist a suicide. As it stands the law provides a very strong deterrent.
‘Once assisted suicide is legalised then both doctors and patients will find themselves under covert pressure. Even those promoting a change in the law have recognised this. Pressure on terminally ill patients to kill themselves might come from family members or medical professionals, but it may also be self-imposed, especially for those who feel that they are being a burden on others,’ writes Professor John Wyatt, a leading expert on end of life issues and a former Chair of the Medical Study group of the Christian Medical Fellowship.[iii]
And why is the evidence from other countries being ignored? In Holland, euthanasia increased by 150% in the first seven years and the situation is now out of control. The Dutch Regulator, Professor Boer (who was formerly pro-euthanasia) has advised the British Government not to adopt it.
Last year the Journal of Medical Ethics reported that in Belgium thousands of patients are being euthanized by their doctors, shockingly without their – or their families’ knowledge. Report author Professor Raphael Cohen-Almagor of Hull University said: ‘It is worrying that some physicians take upon themselves the responsibility to deliberately shorten patients’ lives without a clear indication from the patients that this is what they would want.’ It’s a very slippery slope indeed.[i]
Christian Concern has highlighted an article by academic and author Kevin Yuill that exposes the self centred nature of the assisted suicide debate. It makes interesting reading.[ii]
The Assisted Suicide Bill, known as the Assisted Dying Bill, will be presented before Parliament on 18th September. Christian Concern also has a direct, and quick email facility on its website, for contacting your MP. It couldn’t be easier. You’ll find it at http://notoassistedsuicide.org.uk/
[i] Times of London
[ii] Premier online newsletter 12-08-15
[iii] http://www.christiantoday.com/article/assisted.suicide.respect.for.life.is.the.glue.which.binds.society.together/61550.htm?utm_source=Christian+Concern&utm_campaign=9f669ef59c-WN-2015-08-15&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_9e164371ca-9f669ef59c-127500173 (http://www.christiantoday.com/article/assisted.suicide.respect.for.life.is.the.glue.which.binds.society.together/61550.htm?utm_source=Christian+Concern&utm_campaign=9f669ef59c-WN-2015-08-15&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_9e164371ca-9f669ef59c-127500173