British Religious Groups Join Forces to Stop Bill Allowing Euthanasia

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 20, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

British Religious Groups Join Forces to Stop Bill Allowing Euthanasia Email this article
Printer friendly page

by Maria Gallagher Staff Wrtier
September 20, 2004

London, England ( — The Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England are joining forces in opposition to what church leaders describe as a "misguided and unnecessary" euthanasia bill.

The Roman Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and the Church of England House of Bishops have issued a joint statement saying that the legislation would destroy the trust between doctors and patients.

The Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill bill, sponsored by Lord Joffe, would clear the way for euthanasia in Great Britain. The bishops say the legislation would undermine the protection of the United Kingdom’s most vulnerable citizens.

"It is deeply misguided to propose a law by which it would be legal for terminally ill people to be killed or assisted in suicide by those caring for them, even if there are safeguards to ensure it is only the terminally ill who would qualify," the bishops said in a written

"To take this step would fundamentally undermine the basis of law and medicine and undermine the duty of the state to care for vulnerable people. It would risk a gradual erosion of values in which over time the cold calculation of costs of caring properly for the ill and the old would loom large. As a result many who are ill or dying would feel a burden to others. The right to die would become the duty to die," the bishops added.

The church leaders noted that patients should not be denied pain relief — even if it could hasten their deaths. But, they say assisted suicide is something entirely different.

They note that, with assisted suicide, the goal is not pain relief, but rather killing the patient — often to relieve someone else from the responsibility of caring for the patient.

"What terminally ill people need is to be cared for, not to be killed. They need excellent palliative care including proper and effective regimes for pain relief. They need to be treated with the compassion and respect that this bill would put gravely at risk," the bishops said.

In a cover letter introducing the statement, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, and the Archbishop of Westminster, HE Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, said, "We believe very strongly that respect for human life at all its stages is the foundation of a civilized society, and that the long term consequences of any change in the law to allow euthanasia in limited circumstances would be immensely grave."