News story – Right to die & former Archbishop Carey
Yesterday I happened to see a news story about the assisted dying bill and the former archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey doing a U-turn. He said that he had changed his mind about the church’s teaching and rejection of assisted dying, and that assisted dying prevents ‘needless suffering’ of the terminally ill and that this is not ‘anti-Christian.’
In this news program, I saw a Church priest have a heated discussion with a House of Commons Lord (who was for the bill) about this, and it seemed to me the priest was extremely emotional and his statements were a little all over the place, his stance, of course being a defense of the church’s position against assisted dying. One of his arguments was that it could make people manipulate the terminally and the elderly. But the Lord (I forget his name) said that they had put this law through in Oregon and abuse of the terminally ill had not been an issue.
Read more about the Death With Diginity Act that came into play in 1997 in Oregon – click here.
The Falconer bill would allow doctors to give a lethal dose of drugs to terminally-ill patients who have less than six months to live and who have the mental capacity to make such an informed choice. Two doctors would need to assess the patient’s condition.
Carey said that he had changed his mind after seeing the suffering of Tony Nicklinson who suffered from locked-in syndrome. He died two years ago just weeks after losing his high court battle to die by choice with support of his family.
Tony Nicholson’s widow, whose husband was paralysed from the neck down and could only communicate by moving his eyes to individual letters in order to form sentences, also agreed that this was a step in the right direction. She said that her husband would have been pleased to hear of this move forward. On reading the above article about Tony Nicholson I felt quite churned up – how he must have suffered.
In Carey’s words
Carey said: “The fact is that I have changed my mind. The old philosophical certainties have collapsed in the face of the reality of needless suffering. It was the case of Tony Nicklinson that exerted the deepest influence on me. Here was a dignified man making a simple appeal for mercy, begging that the law allow him to die in peace, supported by his family. His distress made me question my motives in previous debates. Had I been putting doctrine before compassion, dogma before human dignity? “I began to reconsider how to interpret Christian theology on the subject. As I did so, I grew less and less certain of my opposition to the right to die.
I would have paraded all the usual concerns about the risks of ‘slippery slopes’ and ‘state-sponsored euthanasia’. But those arguments which persuaded me in the past seem to lack power and authority when confronted with the experiences of those approaching a painful death.
It fails to address the fundamental question as to why we should force terminally ill patients to an unbearable point. It is the magnitude of suffering that has been preying on my mind as the discussion over the right to die has intensified.”
He also made the very important point that the bill would take mercy killings out of the ‘legal twilight.’
My own stance
I’ve been thinking about what my own views are as to this very controversial issue, and I have to say that Carey has done a very brave turn-around and I, for one, am with him. For me, it’s simple. If one of my family members or friends were terminally ill, with just months to live, and in unbearable pain and anguish, and there was no hope of recovery whatsoever, then I would be with them on assisted dying if they wished to do that, the whole way through. Just like Tony Nicholson’s wife and children were. How can you see someone suffer every single day, every single moment, and (quite frankly) arrogantly stick to some inhumane principle about the sanctity of life (whatever that really means)? If the church wishes to be caring (which last time I checked is what they’re about) then how can it be caring to leave someone to suffer so unbearably when they are already just months away from passing away and there is no recovery possible?
Now, if the church on the other hand, could speed up its so-called miracles so that all terminally-ill people could become cured in an instant now that would be something, for sure.
Who are the church (or any organisation, or any individual) to stop the terminally ill from ending their terrible suffering? The church is full of theoretical, dogmatic nonsense when, ironically, they portray themselves to be exactly that – caring, loving and humane. It’s just hypocrisy and failure to do what’s right on the part of church leaders who have no idea or compassion for this sort of magnitude of suffering.
To me it borders on great self-importance and self-aggrandizement. If we saw an animal, say a dog, in massive pain, whimpering and moaning in pain, and they were on their last legs so to speak, would we not want to put them out of their misery? But a human being – oh no, we must prolong life come what may, never mind the torture they may be going through. And for what end?
Of course such a bill would have to be tightly controlled but to my mind, issues of abuse of the terminally ill (eg to get their inheritance) are all scenarios which are secondary. The first thing and primary reason – and one that is big enough to make the efforts to put in controls to reduce abuse etc – is the suffering of the individual concerned. This is what made Carey do his U-turn for, in simple terms, he was moved deeply by witnessing someone in such an unbearable and prolonged state of suffering.
Here are a couple of newspaper articles on this:
Where do you stand on this?
As Carey asked: Are we putting doctrine before compassion, dogma before human dignity?
Does anyone actually have the true right to tell another whether or not they can end their life? Isn’t the right to die our own right that comes with having a human life?
Let’s ask that Christian question – wwjd – what would Jesus do?
I think he would agree with Carey. Carey has shown huge compassion and humanity. It’s quite moving.
But you may differ in your views. Feel free to share – comments, as always, welcome.
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