A new alliance to promote palliative care and oppose euthanasia was launched on Tuesday 31 January. The Care Not Killing Alliance  now consists of 32 organisations including the Christian Medical Fellowship, the Association for Palliative Medicine of Great Britain & Ireland, the British Council of Disabled People, RADAR (Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation), the Church of England, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales and the Evangelical Alliance along with other human rights groups, professional groups, healthcare providers and faith groups.
Care Not Killing began in late July 2005, when a small steering group first met in the lead up to the debate in the House of Lords on the Select Committee report on Lord Joffe's Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill on 10 October 2005. 70 people representing 52 organisations, along with Peers and Members of Parliament, later attended a supporters'meeting in December 2005. That meeting, which was chaired by the late Lord Chan, was addressed by Baroness Ilora Finlay, Professor of Palliative Care in Cardiff, Dr Frank Clark, Chairman of the Scottish Partnership in Palliative Care, Lord Brennan and Professor John Wyatt, Professor of Neonatal Paediatrics in University College, London.
The Alliance has three aims:
- Promoting more and better palliative care
- Ensuring that existing laws against euthanasia and assisted suicide are not weakened or repealed during the lifetime of the current Parliament
- Influencing the balance of public opinion further against any weakening of the law
More specifically the Alliance's strategy is to:
- Provide a simple compelling and clear campaign slogan 'Care not Killing'
- Maintain a website - www.carenotkilling.org.uk
- Develop a network of expert spokespeople
- Fund opinion polls and support research
- Monitor developments in the courts
- Seek to mobilize mass political support
- Campaign for more and better palliative care
The Alliance's immediate focus will be to campaign against Lord Joffe's revised Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill, due for its second reading (debate stage) in the House of Lords on Friday 12 May. This is, not coincidentally, the day after the fourth anniversary of the death of Diane Pretty, a high profile motor neurone disease sufferer, who lost her case for assisted suicide at the European Court of Human Rights in early 2002.
Organisations can join the alliance either as CORE members (£1,500pa) or associate members (£50) and individuals can join for £10. People can also sign up for the e-newsletter online. A series of interviews with senior doctors, including several CMF members, is available to view on-line, and also on DVD, and there are an abundance of news links, articles and resources. Copies of the Care Not Killing Leaflet ' Assisted Suicide - What is happening in parliament and what can I do about it?'are available free to distribute; just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 020 7633 0770. DVDs can be ordered for £2 each (postage free) from the same address. Apart from the many articles and news links on the site the pages on frequently asked questions (FAQs) on euthanasia and assisted suicide are a very valuable resource for those writing letters or involved in debates on the media.
CMF is committed to Care Not Killing because, whilst our key priority remains the Gospel message of reconciliation with God through Jesus' death and resurrection, our lives as Jesus' disciples need to be characterised by sacrificial care for the suffering and a commitment to protect the weak.
Promoting palliative care and opposing euthanasia are at the heart of what we stand for as Christian doctors. Following Christ today involves providing compassionate care for the vulnerable and protecting them from harm and exploitation. Britain has been a world leader in best practice models for palliative care; but we need to work much harder in making that good quality care much more readily accessible and overcoming the present postcode lottery. And we need to make sure that we robustly oppose any attempt to weaken the law against euthanasia, whether it is via Lord Joffe's revised Bill, via lax Codes of Practice for the Mental Capacity Act, through the Law Commission's review on the homicide law or any other conceivable route. And it is important, in doing this, to work with others who, whilst not sharing or core commitment to the Gospel, nonetheless share our views on palliative care and assisted dying.
CMF has been intimately involved in Care Not Killing from the start and has played a major role in helping to establish the Alliance's work – through financial and administrative support – and through the involvement of our members in writing, research and media. I encourage CMF members to get involved by joining the alliance as individuals (which you can do on line), making use of the resources, writing letters, teaching and training others and, most importantly, praying for the success of the work.
'Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say,“But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?' (Proverbs 24:11-12)