THE Governing Body debated a motion on "assisted dying" which
did not seek to endorse a particular position, but simply "took
note of the debate on assisted dying", and commended the issue "to
further prayer, study, and consideration by members of the Church
The GB began the item by listening to two opposing presentations
in support of papers that had been circulated before the
The Revd Professor Paul Badham, patron of the
Campaign for Dignity in Dying, told GB members that "a Christian
case for supporting assisted dying is based on Jesus's teaching
that the whole of religious law and prophetic teaching can be
summarised as requiring us to love God, and love our neighbour as
"Jesus's golden rule was that we should always treat others as
we want to be treated ourselves. Applying this to assisted dying,
the argument is [that] when people's sufferings are so great that
they make repeated requests to die, it seems a denial of that
loving compassion which is supposed to be a hallmark of
Christianity to refuse their request. If we truly love our
neighbour as ourselves, how can we deny them the death we would
wish for ourselves?"
He said that the sixth commandment was not relevant: "The reason
murder is condemned is that it is an act which deprives another
person of all that life offers; but when a dying person is already
being deprived of life by terminal illness, and simply wants help
to hasten that process, the situation seems very different."
A counter-argument was put by the director of the Living and
Dying Well foundation, Robert Preston: "In a
civilised society, we don't license an act by law simply because we
can empathise with it in exceptional circumstances. All of us in
this room are capable of breaking the criminal law . . .
"If somebody broke into my house at night, and I got up and
found them, I might well inflict injury on them to protect my
family; if I was penniless, and my family were starving, I might
well be tempted to steal in order to get food for them; if I was
rushing a desperately sick child to hospital, I doubt I would have
much time for the Highway Code.
"These are all situations where we might easily empathise, and,
other things being equal, we would not want anyone who broke the
law under those circumstances to face prosecution. But nobody would
seriously suggest that we should license assault, or theft, or
dangerous driving, in prescribed circumstances ahead of the
The Bishop of Swansea & Brecon, the Rt Revd
John Davies, moved the motion. Echoing the theme of the
Archbishop's presidential address, he said that Jesus "indicates
very clearly that life is precious - so precious, to use one of his
metaphors, that even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Yet,
in the same passage, the same chapter of the Gospel according to
Matthew, he tells us not to fear those who can harm the body, but
to fear those who can harm the soul.
"This same God made visible in the Lord Jesus came to bring
life, and to bring life in all its fullness; and yet it is also the
same God made visible in the Lord Jesus who comes to heal, and . .
. he comes to release people from their burdens and their
sufferings. So you can pick and choose."
Susan Last (St Asaph), seconding the motion,
described it as a "very sensitive and emotive subject", and asked:
"If we don't address this subject by open discussion, what
resources can we deploy to cope with this new and emerging
The Revd Philip Bettinson (St Asaph) said that
there was a need "to explore end-of-life issues", but "I don't
think [Lord Falconer's] Bill is the way forward. It doesn't seem to
have enough safeguards. It doesn't seem to be protecting those
people who are the most vulnerable of us. . . It will be those
people who find living to be burdensome on others who could find
themselves falling foul of this Bill."
In his reply to the debate, Bishop Davies said that he had read
articles in newspapers that asked: "'Who are these bishops, who are
these clergy, who are these churchpeople who sit back and
pontificate upon the lives of other people?'
"Those of us who have been parish priests, and sat by the
bedsides of some of the people that this discussion is talking
about . . . know just how important this discussion is; so the
Church has got every right to be having a conversation about this,
and to be studying it, and . . . to be saying something about
The motion was clearly carried. The votes in favour were not
counted; there were no votes against, and one abstention:
That the Governing Body take note of the debate on assisted
dying, and commend the issues to further prayer, study, and
consideration by members of the Church in Wales.