Dignity in Dying

Lord Carey’s reversal on the issue of assisted dying is a reversal of biblical principles.

We are all called to bear one another’s burdens and legalising assisted dying destroys the trust and the beauty of non-reciprocal relationships.

Lord Carey argues that fear is driving opposition to the bill as opponents are worried that the legislation 'might lead to very vulnerable people being abused by very cruel and greedy relatives.' It is interesting that the fear is apparently based on the potential of victims being ‘abused’ by relatives. As with many supporters of the legislation, Carey is liberal with his usage of euphemisms because I’m sure that the vast majority of people would agree that being pressurised by relatives to end your own life is not just abuse but actually plain murder.

But to focus on the horrendous lack of safeguards is missing the point.

At all stages of our lives, humans are never the independent free-minded individuals that we like to think we are. Whether we like it or not, being a burden upon one another is actually how God intended us to operate.

When babies are born they are a helpless burden upon their parents: They do not wash the dishes or provide stimulating conversation to engage their older relatives, and yet a father or mother cradling a child is one of the most beautiful images this world has to offer; a relationship entirely dependent and utterly compelling.

As elderly people grow older they experience a painful adjustment period as they are forced to rely upon others more and more to provide their basic needs. With this somewhat difficult period they are afforded the opportunity to understand how Jesus felt as he took on humanity and became a human child, utterly dependent upon his human parents and the whims of a Jewish Innkeeper.

Of course, this rails against our cultural sense of autonomy, our sense, as Carey puts it, of our right to decide our own fate. Most people would agree that any parent who continually makes their child feel unloved or unwanted has committed a grave offence. And yet, just as the elderly begin to re-enter a similar relationship which involves so much trust and dependence, they are being bombarded with arguments that assert their right to autonomy, their ‘free-will’ to decide their own way to die. This, tragically, is an ideology that breaks down bonds of trust between family members and demotes the fragile relationship to the level of a consumerist connection.

As the Marris assisted dying bill gets closer, let us all reaffirm the Christian world-view.

We are urging Christians to write to their MPs and urge them to protect the most vulnerable in our society. Tell them you are concerned and above all, ask them to turn up on Friday September 11 to cast their vote.

For more information, visit NoToAssistedSuicide.org.uk

Nola Leach is CEO of CARE (Christian Action Research and Education)

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