Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, has called on Catholics to contact their MPs before next week’s vote on a Private Member’s Bill to legalise assisted suicide.
The Cardinal warns that the intrinsic value of each human life will be undermined if assisted suicide were to be legalised by this Bill, with some lives being seen as worth less than others. It would also fundamentally change the “do no harm” principle that underpins all medical practice. These dangers are reflected in the significant opposition of medical professionals.
“This Private’s Member’s Bill seeks to legalise assisted suicide in England and Wales. It will have its Second Reading debate in the House of Commons on Friday 11 September 2015.
“The intrinsic value of each human life will be gravely undermined if this or any bill to legalise assisted suicide were to become law. I urge Catholics, as active citizens, to contact their local MP about this most important issue before the vote.
“Each of us is made in the image of God. The life of every individual is equally valuable (Genesis 1:27). Licensing doctors to supply lethal drugs to terminally ill patients to help them commit suicide rests upon the premise that some lives are worth less than others. It is therefore contrary to human dignity.
“It is also contrary to the ‘do no harm’ principle that underpins all medical practice. Helping someone to commit suicide compromises the fundamental human dignity of both parties involved. Assisted suicide is assisted killing.
Those who are seriously or terminally ill deserve the best care that our society can give and must never be made to feel that they are a burden. We seek to support people in these circumstances, to the best of our abilities and resources. Palliative and end of life care have undergone significant advances in recent decades and we urge the government to continue to develop these services.
“A further profound anxiety has to be considered. If assisted suicide becomes legal, it will be impossible to ensure that people’s decisions will not be influenced by many kinds of pressure or coercion, not just from others but from within themselves.
“The dangers inherent in changing the law are reflected by the significant opposition of medical professionals.
“MPs will face many different pressures in deciding how to vote. We will keep them in our prayers.”
Cardinal Vincent Nichols
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales