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A religious perspective on supporting the campaign

Canon Rosie Harper Speaks about Religious Support for Assisted Dying
Canon Rosie Harper: “The public perception is that the Church has always been and always will be against assisted dying. I would like to challenge that”.

At the last General Synod there was a debate around assisted dying. I hadn’t expected to get involved. Without exception those speaking spoke against assisted dying, and all made the same three points.

Firstly that it was for God, and God alone to choose the moment of a person’s death. Anything other was an affront to God’s supremacy. Secondly they believed in the sanctity of life and assisted dying trampled on this doctrine, and finally the slippery slope argument; if we start here we will end up killing all sorts of vulnerable people.

I found myself on my feet and with considerable trepidation made the only speech in support.

When I sat down my phone started buzzing with Twitter messages and texts from others in the chamber; all saying they agreed with me but didn’t dare say so out loud.

“I have always been convinced that a loving and compassionate God would not demand of any person extreme and prolonged suffering…”

The public perception is that the Church has always been and always will be against assisted dying. I would like to challenge that. With this issue, as with one or two other notable issues within the Church, there are a few vocal groups who articulate the views of a very small number of people, but present them as the agreed opinion of the Church.

Findings from two recent large-scale YouGov polls tell us that there are many who are both committed worshippers and believe strongly that assisted dying should be a choice.

The poll commissioned by Inter-Faith Leaders for Dignity in Dying (IFDiD) found that 62% of people who identified themselves as belonging to a religion supported the legalisation of assisted dying for terminally ill adults with mental capacity, whether they would want the choice for themselves or not. Only 18% were opposed.

I have always been convinced that a loving and compassionate God would not demand of any person extreme and prolonged suffering simply in order to authenticate their ultimate control.

“My uncle would have been dead by now either way. His choice feels life affirming, dignified and measured.”

These thoughts were abstract until last year. My uncle lived in Zurich; he had great care for human relationships and held life very precious. After a terminal diagnosis he decided not to have treatment and he and his family made all the legal and medical arrangements to enable him to choose the moment of his death. The next three years were lived to the full and he was only bed-ridden for two weeks. During those three years the whole family found great comfort in the fact that he did not have to dread losing control at the end. Together he with his family eventually made the decision that the time had come, they gathered around him, good wine, great music; a fine and dignified death. I spoke later to my aunt and she is so grateful that because they lived in Switzerland he had the freedom to make the choices he did.

My uncle would have been dead by now either way. His choice feels life affirming, dignified and measured. Affirming of the sanctity of life, and importantly loving towards his family.

In support of Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill

Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill will be debated in Parliament this year. The Church’s leadership will doubtless be vocal against it, and I’ll remain sitting on the naughty step, but I do hope that we will find a way of allowing the voices of the majority of Christians to be heard.

I am now a member of Inter-Faith Leaders for Dignity in Dying (IFDiD), Dignity in Dying’s affiliate group coordinated by Rabbi Romain.

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