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Voluntary Euthanasia

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Would you also like to submit a review for this item? You already recently rated this item. It is hardly surprising that those who have been the most passionate advocates of controlling their death are those who seem largely to have been in control of their lives.


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Dying brings all of us to a point where we do not have the final word and that calls us back to our humanity in a profound way. There is a world of difference between a society which helps people to die well through excellence in nursing and palliative care, and one which embraces assisted suicide or euthanasia.

Burden is another word we increasingly use: the burden of an ageing population, the burden of those suffering from dementia, the burden of care, the financial burden. It is very dangerous for a society when the old and infirm are largely viewed as a burden. Perhaps this is the flip side of our obsession with youthfulness and a preoccupation with a person's economic contribution to society.

Sir Michael Parkinson has recently drawn our attention to the ways in which we are treating — or rather mistreating — those who are no longer able to care for themselves. Up to half a million people are believed to suffer from "elder abuse" at the hands of carers or relatives.

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How we have regard for the elderly and infirm is a good barometer for our humanity and the wellbeing of society. We must recognise that those would bear the greatest burden from changing the law on assisted suicide are going to be the most vulnerable. I believe this debate offers us a much needed opportunity to reassess our attitudes and direction as a society.

Helping someone to end their life may be described as the humane thing to do but it strikes at something which is deeply human. People from all religious faiths and none recognise there is something hugely significant about the end of a person's life — it is a sacred moment. Those involved in palliative care are especially conscious of this and not knowing when a person might die is a vital facet.

Although it may look otherwise the arguments around assisted suicide are about two different trajectories for our society and that is why passion is running high. I cannot remember an issue that has so united the bishops of the Church of England — not a group famed for their unanimity! I hope this may paradoxically be a sign that this is not all about "religion" but the nature of our humanity and what sort of society we want to be a part of.

A position paper from the Church of England said this: "Suffering may be met with compassion, commitment to high quality services and effective medication; meeting it by assisted suicide or through voluntary euthanasia, however well intentioned, is merely removing it in the crudest way possible. I very much hope that Keir Starmer's guidelines will be recognised as providing the nuance and discretion needed for our social and moral wellbeing and steer us away from the road to legalising assisted suicide.

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If we want to build a society which majors on compassion and care, which supports those who are dying or fearful of growing infirm and a burden, there are far better roads for us to travel. Topics Assisted dying Cif belief. Religion Anglicanism Ethics comment. Reuse this content. Order by newest oldest recommendations.

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