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British bishops oppose new assisted suicide bill

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John Burger - published on 05/27/21 - updated on 05/31/21

Proposal is at odds with the kind of compassion shown during COVID-19 crisis.

The commitment of healthcare professionals to the sick and dying during the COVID-19 crisis has been a “powerful testimony to the fundamental dignity of the human person and to the importance of proper love and care in the face of grave illness and in the last moments of life,” the Catholic bishops of England and Wales said. A new bill introduced in Parliament this week that would allow “assisted dying” is completely at odds with that dignity, they say in a statement.

Introduced into the House of Lords by Baroness Meacher, the bill would legalize “assisted dying” as a choice for terminally ill, mentally competent adults in their final six months of life. Two independent doctors and a High Court judge would have to assess each request, which if granted would enable a patient to die in a manner and at a time and place of their choosing. 

Though the bill purports to alleviate the “intolerable suffering” of terminally ill patients, that motive “must be denounced as ‘false compassion’ as Pope Francis reminds us,” the bishops’ statement says. They point out that Francis regards true compassion as “the just response to the immense value of the sick person.” 

“It finds expression in treating the dying person with love, with dignity and by making use of appropriate palliative care,” the bishops say. 

The prelates add that Meacher’s proposal “would also fundamentally change the relationship between the doctor and the patient, as it would change it from treatment and care to assisting another’s death. Life is a gift to be valued and cherished until its last breath, through natural death, which opens into the promise of eternal life.”

The bishops said that other attempts to legalize assisted suicide in the U.K. failed “overwhelmingly” in the past. Most recently, the “Marris Bill” was defeated 330-118 in the House of Commons in 2015.

“We reaffirm our support for high quality end-of-life care, which includes spiritual and pastoral support for the one who is dying and their family,” the bishops state.

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assisted suicide

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