Wednesday, July 16, 2014

'Keep assisted suicide illegal' - dying cleric

A plea from a dying clergyman for assisted suicide to remain illegal has been sent to every member of the House of Lords by the Church of England in an attempt to prevent a change in the law.

Lord Falconer's bill on assisted dying is expected to be voted on at its second reading in the House of Lords on Friday.

The Rev Christopher Jones, former chaplain of St Peter's College, Oxford, and a tutor in doctrine at Cranmer House, Durham, wrote of his experience when he was dying of cancer. He died in 2012.

He said he experienced intense stress and a sense of hopelessness when he realised his condition was terminal, and might have been open to ending his life by legal means, had they existed. Since then, he had experienced renewed energy and vitality "beyond anything I could have expected, and I am enjoying life in this period of 'remission.'

"The legal prohibition of this course was immensely helpful in removing it as a live option, thus constraining me to respond to my situation more creatively and hopefully. . . I now know that had I taken this course, I would have been denied the unexpected and joyful experience of being 'recalled to life' as I now am."

There was great danger in giving decisive significance to a sick patient's judgment that their life was no longer worth living as their feelings could change drastically in a short space of time.

Lord Falconer's bill would allow doctors to prescribe lethal doses of drugs for terminally ill people who were expected to die within six months. He says there have been more than 200 new appointments to the House of Lords since the matter was last debated five years ago, and he believes a majority of peers now support a change in the law.

Baroness Jane Campbell, the disability rights campaigner who is herself disabled, will be fighting the bill. "Assisted dying is to abandon hope and ignore the majority of disabled and terminally ill," she said.

Paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, who is also wheelchair bound, said: "An assisted dying law is playing with fire, especially when there are no safeguards in place. Lord Falconer's bill just isn't fit for purpose."

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