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Letters to the Editor

20 October 2023


Counter-arguments on euthanasia

From Dr Claud Regnard FRCP

Sir, — Lord Carey and Rabbi Jonathan Romain espouse personal choice (Comment, 13 October). But choice is empty without an informed choice, and it is sad to find two prominent faith leaders ignoring the facts.

They blandly claim that palliative care is the first option, but choose to ignore reality. More than 300 UK people every day cannot access the specialist palliative care that they desperately need. In New South Wales, Australia, they have just cut palliative-care funding while increasing assisted-dying funding. There was no growth in palliative-care services 2012-19 in Belgium and the Netherlands. Nearly half of all Canadians cannot access any palliative care, and, although access to palliative care increased by six per cent in five years, assisted deaths increased by 989 per cent in six years. The facts show that assisted dying has a much greater priority than palliative care.

It is, therefore, no surprise that palliative-care physicians are almost unanimously sceptical about assisted dying. Their concern is shared with many other specialities such as GPs, care-of-the-elderly physicians, and oncologists. Only two per cent of Canadian and Oregon doctors have prescribed lethal drugs: most want nothing to do with the process.

Your contributors repeat the myth of legal stability. Oregon has changed both the law and practice of assisted dying. It has experimented with four different drug cocktails without any patient safeguards and no data collection. The percentage of assisted deaths in Oregon has trebled in ten years, while other jurisdictions have much higher rates of four to five per cent, with some parts of Canada more than 7.5 per cent. No assisted-dying safeguard is “robust”: all established jurisdictions have relaxed or removed safeguards. Even new jurisdictions are challenging safeguards as discriminatory barriers.

Scrutiny is poor or non-existent: for example, Dignitas produces no reports, and Oregon destroys all source documents one year after each annual report, making verification impossible. No lethal drug has ever been assessed or approved by any drug regulatory authority anywhere in the world.

Lord Carey and Dr Romain have their beliefs, but they are meaningless without the truth.

Honorary Consultant in Palliative Care Medicine
St Oswald’s Hospice
Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE3 1EE

From the Revd John Powell

Sir, — I was disturbed by reading the article “It is time to lift the ban on assisted dying”. As a hospital chaplain, I have seen extremely disturbing situations in which patients have made life very difficult for the medical staff because of the severity of their condition; but never once have I witnessed a planned assisted death. The staff have always followed their medical ethic of preserving life at all costs.

I agree that there are extreme cases in which patients have been kept alive by artificial means for a very long time, and decisions have to be made after consultation with medical staff and the family. I have also witnessed terminal care in which doctors have used their medical knowledge to alleviate suffering as death approaches. I believe that the Covid pandemic has highlighted the extreme dangers of treatments that might have erred on the side of assisting death and not alleviating suffering.

I am surprised that a former archbishop should add his name to such a dangerous practice that gives such powers to the medical profession and the legal profession. The Hippocratic Oath, taken by doctors, states that they should do no harm. They give their professional lives to preserve life to the best of their ability. If this fundamental law is ignored, it opens to the door to a host of malpractices. Another principle is apt in this case. It is our bodily autonomy. As long as we are able to make rational decisions, we have the right to control what happens to our bodies. If this is not the case, we have medical tyranny: the worst tyranny of all.

The argument that no state that practises assisted dying has reversed the decision is no indication that it is right. There have been many state decisions recently that have not been reversed, but they are not right. To say that we play God every time we see a person having a heart attack and decide to put them on a defibrillator or give CPR rather than let nature take its course is nonsense. We are trying to save life in a safe way. What a ridiculous argument!

This makes one even more wary of accepting the argument. If a person wants to end his or her life, it is a personal decision; but the State and, especially, the medical profession should not be involved.

12 Maesydderwn, Cardigan
Ceredigion SA43 1PE

Responses to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

From the Revd Dr Alan Billings

Sir, — The Christian reaction to the attack by Hamas on southern Israel (News, 13 October) was mainly confused and contradictory. What was Israel supposed to do?

Many said that Israel had “a right to defend itself”, but then objected to everything Israel might do on the grounds that it entailed further violence and suffering. Israel’s “right to defend itself” — I would prefer to speak about a duty to protect its citizens — turned out to be empty rhetoric. It should do nothing.

The consequences of following that advice are not that hard to understand. The enemies of Israel would be emboldened, and there would be little incentive for any of the parties to focus again on finding a way of living together.

Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire
Carbrook House
Sheffield S9 2EH

From Mr Jonathan Coulter

Sir, — You report (Online news, 15 October) the Archbishop of Canterbury pleading for the protection of civilians in Gaza, a noble aim. But he keeps condemning Hamas as if it were uniquely responsible for the recent death and mayhem, while he denies the underlying context: 75 years of colonial oppression and apartheid.

Almost since its inception at the turn of the 20th century, the Zionist movement has entertained the idea of ethnically cleansing the Palestinians, by driving them into tiny enclaves or foreign lands. The inclusion of fascistic groups in the current Israeli government has simply provided a fresh impulse to this project. The journalist Jonathan Cooke puts it this way: “Ignore the fake news. Israel isn’t defending itself. It’s enforcing its right to continue ethnically cleansing Palestinians.”

Other church leaders, such as the Evangelical Lutheran Bishop in Jordan, Dr Sani-Ibrahim Azar, have been much more accurate in their statements. You report him saying: “we believe it is crucial to understand the circumstances from which violence emerges. In this case, it is a symptom of a people deeply wounded by extended and systematic violence and oppression” (News, 13 October). Tim Livesey, CEO of Embrace the Middle East, makes a similar point.

Until the Archbishop acknowledges this reality, he will be part of Israel/Palestine’s problem, not the solution.

Secretary of CAMPAIN
21 Stanstead Close
Bromley BR2 9DS

From Mr Bill Risebero

Sir, — Many criticisms might be made of Hamas’s atrocious attack on Israeli citizens, but “unprovoked” is not one of them. For illustration, look no further than the vile tactic of containment, deprivation, and bombing which the Israeli State has visited on the people of Gaza for the past 16 years.

One thing that Hamas’s action has driven home is that there can be no military “solution” to the problem of Israel/Palestine. The Israeli State, with one of the world’s best-equipped armies, bolstered heavily with billions of US dollars each year, finds it easy enough to persecute a captive Palestinian population, but has proved unable to defend its own people when the persecuted fight back.

On 10 October, Israel cut off all food and water to Gaza and dropped 1400 bombs on men, women, and children with nowhere else to go. The Old Testament reading for that evening was from 2 Kings 6. In it, the Lord instructs Israel to give food and water to its enemies and to give them their freedom, breaking the cycle of violence.

4 Reachview Close
London NW1 0TY

The font is no place for airing LLF disagreement

From the Revd Michael Page

Sir, — I read the letter (13 October) from “Name and Address Supplied” with dismay. As a Baptist minister, I do not take the same view as my Anglican colleagues on infant baptism. Nevertheless, as a former prison chaplain and sometime hospital chaplain, I was regularly challenged by requests that were outside my own theological position. I clearly remember the first such occasion, because, though not one normally given to hearing God speaking directly to me, I heard a voice distinctly saying “It’s not about you Michael. It’s about her.”

Baptism is a gift from God in response to a reaching out by the individual. It can be administered by anyone, even if they themselves have no faith: a nurse with a dying patient, a squaddie on a battlefield with a badly injured mate, a priest with a new-born child, or even a Baptist minister. None of us truly understands the nature, the mystery, of the gift. I am confident, however, that it is not about the person administering the gift, but the person receiving it.

Your correspondent may be absolutely sure in their belief that the neighbouring priest is teaching erroneously with regard to same-sex relationships, although there will be many who disagree. But I suggest that is hardly a reason to deny a child the gift that demonstrates God’s grace to his creation.

8 Cypress Close, Longthorpe
Peterborough PE3 9QX

From the Revd Dr Nicholas Henderson

Sir, — I respond to your anonymous correspondent’s letter describing refusing permission for the baptism of a child in another parish as the priest there is teaching that same-sex blessings can be blessed in church. Perhaps visiting the “sins of the fathers on the children” would be a good description of the contents.

The author appears to be a latter-day Donatist who has never read Article XXVI, “Of the unworthiness of the Ministers, which hinders not the effect of the sacrament.”

As for the apparently unpardonable sin of blessing same-sex relationships that supposedly “transgress 2000 years of Christian teaching and pastoral practice”, for once the Bishops have got it right. Even if they are ponderously slow in enabling prayers of blessing, no one (except perhaps “Name and Address Supplied”) could say they haven’t tried hard to preserve unity.

38 Caledonian Wharf
Saunders Ness Road
London E14 3EW

Climate-change ‘deniers’ deserve a fair hearing

From Canon R. H. W. Arguile

Sir, — I am disappointed to see your report of His Holiness not only expressing a view as to the seriousness of global warming which is a widely held opinion but criticising those who continue “to deny or question the reality of climate change”, but without acknowledging that there are those who hold the view that it is a problem, not a crisis (News, 13 October).

There are those with huge scientific credentials who question some of the assertions of extreme weather events. The “alleged solid scientific data”, if they are false or misleading, are for scientists to argue against with evidence, not to be criticised because their conclusions conscientiously held are against the flow of opinion.

Let us please have a fair debate — and notice that the so-called deniers do what they do in part because they look at the consequences for poor countries of denying them the reliable sources of energy which we take for granted. The Tearfund advertisement in the same issue implicitly contradicts some of what the Pope is saying.

Those who say that this is not a crisis, but a set of problems that are in principle soluble, are mostly honest, credible, widely experienced, and deeply knowledgeable climate scientists. I am not such a scientist, but nor is His Holiness.

10 Marsh Lane
Norfolk NRT23 1EG

Clergy spouse working on the Tesco checkout

From the Revd Ray Morris

Sir, — I was saddened to read the Revd Graeme Anderson’s letter (13 October) reporting a negative and condescending response to his wife’s statement that she worked at a Tesco checkout. I live near a Tesco Express, which I visit almost daily. The checkout staff, with most of whom I am on first-name terms, are unfailingly kind, patient, and supportive to me, an octogenarian with failing eyesight and a propensity to confuse 10p pieces with pound coins.

How dare anyone deny that theirs is a real ministry?

3 Medina Gardens
Middlesbrough TS5 8BN

Vain repetitions? Kidd? You must be kidding, kid

From Mr Patrick Kidd

Sir, — It is always an honour when the Church Times mentions me in Quotes of the Week, and I was delighted to see my latest about Bishop Bishop and Judge Judge was followed by Allan Wilcox’s excellent letter about “Fr Fathers, Fr Fathers’s father” (13 October).

I can only top that by recalling the story about the script that the Buckingham Palace switchboard would have to use whenever they put the Queen Mother through to our late Queen: “Your Majesty? Her Majesty, Your Majesty.”

97 Greenvale Road
London SE9 1PE

Professor Jay shows how to correct mistakes

From Mrs Susan Hunt

Sir, — I am one of the 11 people whose data was recently breached in the Professor Alexis Jay Future Church Safeguarding Programme review (News, 13 October).

I was most impressed by the way in which it has been handled, with our being immediately informed and constantly updated ever since. Counselling was offered from the beginning, with even one such present at my interview on Thursday of last week. The emphasis throughout has been one of transparency and truthfulness.

This contrasts sharply with my experience of almost four years of a Diocesan Core Group in which obfuscation and fabrications have abided in abundance in a safeguarding case of a wrongful allegation. Their only concern has been in preserving the reputations of clergy and core-group members, with no attempt at justice, honesty, or compassion for the victim.

Although the breach may seem an unfortunate error, it was to one person not involved with the Church, and the information was deleted. Professor Jay has shown us in practical terms the way in which mistakes, however serious, should be dealt with.

I look forward to her report.

4 Ardsley Road, Ashgate
Chesterfield S40 4DG

Hard and soft church furnishings and acoustics

From Mr Nicholas Taylor

Sir, — Your report that the Consistory Court of Bristol has granted permission for pews to be replaced with upholstered chairs despite advice that they could alter existing acoustics (News, 13 October) raises the awkward possibility that an opportunity to improve acoustics might be lost. It is frequently the case that “lively” acoustics make life much more difficult for people with impaired hearing. Adding soft furnishings such as upholstered seating and carpets can turn an intolerable space into an acceptable one.

I hope that opportunities to improve accessibility for the D/deaf and hard-of-hearing and thereby help churches meet their Equality Act obligations aren’t thwarted by aesthetic considerations, and by judgements and recommendations made by authorities who may not struggle to hear what is being said or sung. Some reassurance on this point would be most welcome.

Cross Cottage, Main Road
Ellastone, Ashbourne, DE6 2GZ

The Bishop of Leicester has queried the figures in Professor Roy Faulkner’s letter last week, and writes: “I have checked our parish-contribution data for that year: 15 out of 231 parishes in our diocese paid more than the cost (stipend, housing, pension, and NI) of a full-time stipendiary priest. Technically, several of those received more ministry provision than just one full-time priest. But it seems the most appropriate statistic to contrast with Roy’s citation of 82 financially self-sustaining parishes.” Editor

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