Sir, - The Revd Professor Paul Badham (
Comment, 14 October) argues cogently that there are good reasons for
Christians to hesitate before supposing that our faith is unequivocal in its
opposition to assisted suicide and euthanasia. Unfortunately, he ignores the
fact that there are good non-theological reasons for being very cautious about
any change in the present law.
The 1994 House of Lords Select Committee on Euthanasia, of which I was a
member, warned against any legislation that might undermine the present
absolute prohibition against intentional killing, or confuse the aims and role
of the medical profession.
A new Select Committee, which reported this year, placed its main emphasis
instead on the concept of patient autonomy, and not surprisingly reached a
different conclusion. It failed, however, to take into account the extent to
which personal autonomy is in practice socially conditioned. What we think of
as our free choice is often nothing of the kind, as every advertiser knows.
To legalise assisted suicide and euthanasia would in the long run change the
culture within which death is approached, just as abortion has changed the
culture as it affects attitudes towards pregnancy. So-called autonomous choices
would come to depend more and more on what is expected of us, particularly when
we start picking up subtle indications that we are becoming a bit of a nuisance.
There is no need to appeal to theology, therefore, to appreciate the
long-term dangers of going down the road Professor Badham suggests.
18 The Mount
Malton YO17 7ND