Clash of compassions in assisted-dying debate

26 October 2012

by a staff reporter


Debate: Lord Falconer

Debate: Lord Falconer

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 ( News Comment, 6 January), and the Revd Professor Nigel Biggar, Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology in the University of Oxford.

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 Lord Harries.



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