THE law on assisted dying is out of step with society's
standards of compassion, a public debate on the issue heard.
The debate, organised by the Christian Evidence Society, heard
from Lord Falconer, who chaired the Commission on Assisted Dying,
which reported earlier this year (
Comment, 6 January), and the Revd Professor Nigel Biggar,
Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology in the University
Lord Falconer told the audience at King's College, London,
earlier this month that, currently, "Those who can afford it, have
to travel to a ghastly flat in Zurich, where they die away from the
place they live, in most cases with their loved ones with them -
but in some cases not."
The campaigning group Dignity in Dying published figures yesterday which show
that this year, 35 British people have been assisted to die at the
Dignitas facility in Switzerland, and that now more than two
hundred British citizens (217) have died there. The majority
(74%) of those 217 British people who chose assisted deaths at
Dignitas were women (56 men, 161 women).
Professor Biggar said he feared that, if a law were passed that
allowed the terminally ill to be helped to die, campaigners would
soon protest that it should be extended more widely - as was
happening in the Netherlands.
"I want my society to be one where support to live, not die, is
the norm. Even where death is a relief, it is still an absolute
loss. The death of an individual is never simply a cause for
celebration. I want to live in a society where the bullied, and the
jilted, and the ashamed, and the frustrated, and the bereaved are
discouraged from killing themselves."
The debate was chaired by a former Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd