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PQRM Committee's Letter to MPs on Assisted Dying Bill

Date: Friday, 11 September 2015

(The letter copied below was sent to all MP's by the Rev D M Blunt on behalf of the Church's Public Questions, Religion & Morals Committee.)

10th September 2015

Dear Member of Parliament,

Assisted Dying Bill

As you are aware the Assisted Dying (No. 2) Bill sponsored by Rob Marris MP is due to be debated in the House of Commons tomorrow (Friday 11th September). We write to ask you to attend the debate and to vote against the Bill. Below are the main reasons why we make this request:

1) The Bill is based on the mistaken idea that a person has a ‘right’ to end his or her own life.

The declared purpose of the Bill is “to enable competent adults who are terminally ill to choose to be provided with medically supervised assistance to end their own life.” However the sixth commandment of the moral law contained in the Bible states, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13). By this we understand that God condemns not only murder but also self-murder. The Larger Catechism, a doctrinal standard of our Church, explains that among the sins forbidden in the sixth commandment are: “all taking away the life of ourselves, or of others, except in case of publick justice, lawful war, or necessary defence” (Q. 136).

Our lives are in God’s hand to do as He pleases with them and not in our hand to do as we please with them. It is a sin either to take one’s own life (which is what those who procure an assisted suicide will be doing if the Bill becomes law) or to help another person to take his or her own life (which is what medical practitioners, witnesses, judges and health professionals will be doing if the Bill becomes law).

Suicide, whether assisted or unassisted, cannot be regarded as just another ‘life choice’. It is a final choice, from which there is no going back. The implications for those who depart this world without forgiveness for their sins are enormous and indeed horrendous: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). No situation in which people may be found, however difficult and distressing for themselves and their families, justifies the deliberate ending of their lives.

2) The Bill is yet another attack upon the sanctity of human life.

In recent decades laws have been passed or proposed which allow the ending of life at both ends of the age range. At one end we have the destruction of defenceless infants by abortion; at the other end there is a desire to allow euthanasia to be performed on the elderly and frail. This Bill would permit the hastening of death for yet more individuals. We do not believe that these things have a place in a compassionate society.

Even if there was just the slightest possibility that ending one’s life or assisting someone in the ending of his or her life was going beyond what properly belongs to man then we would surely be wise to refrain from such actions. Yet who can deny that there is far more than a possibility that such actions are wrong?

It is instructive that neither the Bill nor its Explanatory Notes make any reference to what constitutes the real worth of a person’s life. We submit that man’s true dignity lies in the fact that he is made in the image and likeness of God: each of us has a never-dying soul which means that uniquely among the creatures we are capable of knowing and enjoying God and of finding our fulfilment in such a relationship.

3) The Bill is a danger to individuals who need our protection and affirmation.

It is explained that the Bill “provides for a person who is terminally ill and has six months or less to live to seek and lawfully be provided with assistance to end their own life.” For anyone to attempt to make a definitive judgment on how long someone has to live is to assume the place of God: we all know of cases where such medical diagnoses have been proved wrong. 

If the Bill is passed then we fear that people with debilitating conditions may feel under pressure not to be a ‘burden’ to their loved ones or to wider society. They may begin to think that they have an obligation to avail themselves of what is now a lawful way of bringing their lives to a close – especially when there are people available who are approved to assist them in this new ‘duty’.

It is particularly perverse to us that medical practitioners and health professionals, whose very calling is to sustain life, should be employed in helping to bring about the early demise of some of their fellow human beings. We also believe that those who are entrusted with the making of our laws should use their authority to protect and succour the weak and vulnerable in our society and not to facilitate the bringing of harm to them – in this case actual death. We note that disability groups are opposed to a change in the law.

We are very thankful to the Lord for the recent advances which have been made in palliative care in our country. These developments mean that the suffering associated with conditions which may be beyond medical treatment can often be alleviated significantly. We believe that a truly benevolent society would support palliative care for all who need it, rather than offer the option of assisted suicide.

4) The Bill runs counter to government strategy.

In his foreword to the recent government report entitled ‘Preventing suicide in England: Two years on’, which was published in February, the Rt Hon Norman Lamb MP, then Minister for Care Services, said: “Every person lost to suicide is a tragedy, for their loved ones, their colleagues, and society as a whole.... Suicide is not inevitable for people in crisis – good care can make the vital difference for people who are suicidal. Three areas have this vision already and are doing incredible things to improve and importantly save lives. I want every part of the country to be just as ambitious.”

The Bill contradicts this worthwhile aim. If it is passed the state would be saying effectively that there is ‘good’ suicide as well as bad suicide – the sort of confusion which results when we try to be wiser than God. There would soon be calls to extend the law, even to people who have simply “had enough of life”.

5) The Bill would have an impact on other parts of the United Kingdom.

We recognise that the Bill would legalise assisted suicide in England and Wales only. However that does not mean that the Bill would have no impact on other parts of the United Kingdom. In May the Scottish Parliament rejected the Assisted Suicide Bill which had originally been brought forward by the late Margo MacDonald MSP. It did so by the decisive margin of 82 votes to 36, for which we are thankful, although a previous attempt by the same MSP in 2010 was defeated by the even wider margin of 85 votes to 16.

Our concern is that if the present Bill becomes law it would give encouragement to those who would like to raise the matter yet again in the Scottish Parliament. We believe that this would be a most unwelcome development.

6) The Bill is a sad commentary on the state of our society.

When one considers all the worthy objects which might have been taken up in a Private Members’ Bill, for the help of the truly needy in our society, it is tragic that the opportunity is being used instead to promote assisted suicide. This is the sort of culture we are creating by abandoning our Christian foundations.

Suicide is never the answer to any plight we may find ourselves in and is likely to plunge us into a far more miserable eternity. The way to true peace and lasting happiness is, as it always has been, through the gospel of God’s saving grace in the Lord Jesus Christ: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

For these and other reasons we respectfully urge you to be present in the Parliament on Friday and to vote against the Bill.

Yours sincerely,

Rev. David Blunt (Convener)

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Photo credit:
The Houses of Parliament, Westminster, London
By Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK
(Houses of Parliament Uploaded by tm)
[CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons