The Most Rev Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, has joined the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams and Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks in writing to The Daily Telegraph newspaper to express his concern over an amendment to the Coroners and Justice Bill focusing on assisted suicide.
The proposed amendment seeks to protect from prosecution those who help friends or relatives to go abroad to commit suicide in the countries where the practice is legal.
Three years ago a move to legalise physician assisted suicide, by way of a Private Members Bill, was defeated in the House of Lords. The debate on the Bill was heated and impassioned. It was also, by and large, respectful and serious.
Shortly before the Bill was debated in Parliament, the Royal College of Physicians asked its member doctors if they thought the law needed changing – and over 70% of those responding said the law against assisted suicide should stay the same. The Royal College of General Practitioners also urged that the law should stay the same.
Now, by way of an amendment to the Coroners and Justice Bill, the legality of assisting people to end their own lives is once again to be debated. The proposed amendment seeks to protect from prosecution those who help friends or relatives to go abroad to commit suicide in one of the few countries where the practice is legal.
It would surely put vulnerable people at serious risk, especially sick people who are anxious about the burden their illness may be placing on others. Moreover, our hospice movement, an almost unique gift of this country to wider humankind, is the profound and tangible sign of another and better way to cope with the challenges faced by those who are terminally ill, by their loved ones and by those who care for them.
This amendment would mark a shift in British law towards legalising euthanasia. We do not believe that such a fundamental change in the law should be sought by way of an amendment to an already complex Bill. It should be rejected.
The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols
Archbishop of Westminster
The Most Reverend and Rt Hon Dr Rowan Williams
Archbishop of Canterbury
Sir Jonathan Sacks
Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth
Members of the House of Lords speak out over proposed changes to the Coroners and Justice Bill – a letter to The Times: