England Faith Leaders Lobby Parliament Against Euthanasia

Major faith groups in the U.K. published a joint letter to both Houses of Parliament on Friday in a bid to lobby against legalizing any forms of euthanasia ahead of this week’s debate on the proposed Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill.

Major faith groups in the United Kingdom published a joint letter to both Houses of Parliament on Friday in a bid to lobby against legalizing any forms of euthanasia ahead of this week’s debate on the proposed Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill in the House of Lords.

"We, the undersigned, hold all human life to be sacred and worthy of the utmost respect and note with concern that repeated attempts are being made to persuade Parliament to change the law on intentional killing so as to allow assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia for those who are terminally ill," the letter read, according to the Church of England.

Nine leading figures from the six major faith groups in the U.K., representing millions of adherents, addressed all Members of Parliament and of the House of Lords concerning the moral crisis over such legislation.

The leaders include General Director of Evangelical Alliance UK Joel Edwards, Archbishop of Cardiff of the Catholic Church in Great Britain Peter Smith, Bishop of Southwark of the Church of England the Rev. Tom Butler, His Eminence Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira and Great Britain, the Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks, Principal Muslim College and Chair Muslim Law Sharia Council Sheikh Dr M.A. Zaki Badawi and among others.

As the vulnerable people – the elderly, lonely, sick or distressed – often easily feel that they are the burden of their friends and families, the religious leaders were concerned that legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia may inevitably pose pressure on these people to request early death.

The religious leaders warned the Parliament, stating in the letter that “the so-called ‘right to die’ would inexorably become the duty to die and potentially economic pressures and convenience would come to dominate decision-making."

"Assisted suicide and euthanasia will radically change the social air we all breathe by severely undermining respect for life," they stated.

As the pro-euthanasia argued that assisted suicide is necessary to ease the sufferings of the terminally ill, the religious leaders reaffirm in the letter that palliative care should be the real solution.

"Palliative care is advancing very rapidly both in relieving the spectrum of suffering experienced by those with a terminal illness, and in supporting their families," the leaders explained.

Acknowledging that palliative care service is very unevenly distributed around the country, the leaders suggested a reprioritization of NHS resources in order to ensure that adequate training is given to doctors and nurses and that centers of specialist palliative care exist where they can be accessed by those who need them.

In addition, the leaders noted that countries which have legalized assisted suicide or euthanasia are experiencing serious problems in case of abuse of the law.

It is stated in the letter, "In Holland 1 in every 32 deaths arises from legal or illegal euthanasia: a similar law here could lead to some 13,000 deaths a year." Most recently, Holland has even been planning on further relaxation of the law to allow infant euthanasia.

Furthermore, in the U.K., more medical professionals have realized the crisis of legalizing assisted suicide or euthanasia. The religious leaders said recent surveys show only 22-38 percent of doctors are in favor of a change in the law.

Meanwhile, the leading Christian charity CARE (Christian Action Research and Education) is launching a high-profile campaign to tackle the threat of euthanasia in the U.K.

The "Life Valued" campaign of CARE aims to motivate Christians and churches to take actions against the controversial euthanasia bill. CARE has joined disability charity, Through the Roof, established by U.S. campaigner Joni Eareckson Tada.

Tada is a leading disability advocate and campaigner against euthanasia and abortion in the U.S. state of California. Since she was paralyzed following a diving accident in 1967, she has written over 30 books on her faith and disability issues which have sold well in Christian bookshops in the U.K. and America for several decades.

CARE chairman Lyndon Bowring will be holding a series of public meetings across the U.K. in collaboration with Tada to address the euthanasia issue.

"We hope the public meetings will be a huge success," said Bowring. "Joni is one of the most outstanding spokespersons worldwide, and a great ambassador for proclaiming the truth – that life is sacred and we are all special in the sight of God. She has been fearless in challenging abortion and euthanasia."

The uprising campaigns against euthanasia in Britain come recently as a Select Committee of the House of the Lords is due to debate on the bill by Oct. 10.

The bill has been approved by the House of Lords at the second reading, on which it was agreed that the legislation and surrounding issues would be further considered by a special Select Committee of the House of Lords. The Committee, which took evidence between September 2004 and February 2005, was chaired by Lord Mackay of Clashfern and included members both supporting and opposing euthanasia.

The Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill was introduced by Lord Joffe in March 2004. This Bill was intended to "enable a competent adult who is suffering unbearably as a result of terminal illness to receive medical assistance to die at his own considered and persistent request," or simply to introduce voluntary euthanasia.

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