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Assisted dying proposals rejected as too damaging

A change in the law on assisted dying would 'permit people actively to participate in bringing about the deaths of other individuals, something that, apart from cases of self defence, has not formed part of the legal landscape of the United Kingdom since the abolition of capital punishment', the Church of England Mission and Public Affairs Council has told politicians.

Responding to the Choice at the End of Life All Party Parliamentary Group's Safeguarding Choice: A Draft Assisted Dying Bill for Consultation, the Mission and Public Affairs Council acknowledges that 'the draft bill seeks genuinely to meet the stated wishes of a small number of people' but concludes that 'it fails sufficiently to recognise its potentially damaging consequences'.

"It is essential," the response says, "that society values and affirms the life and wellbeing of each of its members, regardless of age, illness, disability or economic or social status.  A change in the law on assisted suicide has the capacity to undermine this by suggesting that society may be complicit in some individuals deliberately and actively ending others' lives prematurely.  Important health and social care messages and interventions such as those aimed at suicide prevention or at giving reassurance of compassionate and effective End of Life Care are difficult to reconcile with a law that would enable health professionals to participate in actively ending patients' lives."

"Crucially," the response continues, "a change in the law would permit people actively to participate in bringing about the deaths of other individuals, something that, apart from cases of self defence, has not formed part of the legal landscape of the United Kingdom since the abolition of capital punishment. 

"Such consequences would have far-reaching and damaging effects on the nature of our society; a price too great to pay for whatever perceived benefits they might arguably bring to a few. 

"While recognising that individuals who wish to have assistance in ending their own lives may be seen as being vulnerable, their position needs to be considered alongside the obvious vulnerability of more than 300,000 elderly people who suffer abuse each year in England and Wales, very many of them at the hands of their own family members, often for pecuniary reasons. The question must be asked: on balance, might a change in the law place more vulnerable people at increased risk of neglect, marginalisation or abuse?  Unless the answer can be a demonstrable and convincing 'no' it would be negligent in the extreme to contemplate such a change."