Published: 4th April 2005
The Christian Medical Fellowship and Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship, Britain’s largest organisations of Christian doctors and lawyers, today regretted that the Lords’ Select Committee reviewing the Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill did not have the wisdom and courage unequivocally to reject euthanasia in the face of a strong and emotive campaign from factions seeking a change in the law.
CMF General Secretary Peter Saunders said, ‘CMF remains opposed to euthanasia on the grounds that it is dangerous (because it undermines autonomy), unnecessary (because alternative treatments exist), and morally wrong (contrary to all historical codes of medical ethics and the Judaeo-Christian ethic).'
Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship spokesperson Charlotte Vincent added, ‘Whilst there will always be individual cases which raise questions about assisted suicide, hard cases make bad laws and bad laws change the public conscience and place vulnerable groups at risk. A change in the law would give doctors power that could be too easily abused, and a responsibility that they should not be entitled to have. The experience in the Netherlands (where over 1,000 patients are killed by doctors each year without their consent) demonstrates that progression to involuntary euthanasia is a real danger if the law is changed in the same way here. If legislation allowing euthanasia or physician assisted suicide ever came into effect, and political and economic interests were brought to bear, the generated momentum would prove overwhelming. To protect this vulnerable majority it is right that a tiny minority of insistent patients forego a right that the European Court has said they don’t have anyway.’
Saunders continued, ‘The last Lords’ Select Committee produced a wise and courageous report on euthanasia in 1994, and unanimously recommended no change in the law. As chair of that committee, Lord Walton of Detchant summed up their concerns in saying: “We concluded that it would be virtually impossible to ensure that all acts of euthanasia were truly voluntary and that any liberalisation of the law in the United Kingdom could not be abused. We were also concerned that vulnerable people - the elderly, lonely, sick, or distressed - would feel pressure, whether real or imagined, to request early death.”'
They both concluded, ‘Nobody has a ‘right’ to be killed by a doctor, Britain does not need euthanasia, and no society could ever control it. Let us as professionals and society instead get on with the task of working for that genuinely “gentle and easy death” all patients deserve. The Pope’s example demonstrates what real ‘death with dignity’ means: facing the end with courage, hope and serenity with balanced medical intervention and effective palliative care.’
Steven Fouch (CMF Head of Communications) 020 7234 9668
Alistair Thompson on 07970 162 225
Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) was founded in 1949 and is an interdenominational organisation with over 5,000 doctors, 900medical and nursing students and 300 nurses and midwives as members in all branches of medicine, nursing and midwifery. A registered charity, it is linked to over 100 similar bodies in other countries throughout the world.
CMF exists to unite Christian healthcare professionals to pursue the highest ethical standards in Christian and professional life and to increase faith in Christ and acceptance of his ethical teaching.