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Archbishop Smith opposes draft Government assisted suicide plan

Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark has condemned the British Government’s draft Assisted Dying Bill Consultation, calling instead for better palliative care.

“Few will be surprised to see yet another attempt by Lord Falconer and others to promote the legalisation of assisted suicide,” the archbishop (above), speaking on behalf of the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, said. “This is merely the latest in a line of similar proposals that have been debated and repeatedly defeated in Parliament over the last five years. What is more, only last week the BMA re-affirmed its opposition to any change in the law.

“The existing law serves a vital purpose in upholding the human dignity of all and gives protection to the most vulnerable members of society. Far from prematurely ending a person’s life, what is needed for those with terminal illnesses is a properly funded and universally accessible palliative care service.”

A rally to promote better palliative care and to oppose the legalisation of assisted suicide and euthanasia was held in central London on Tuesday.

The rally was organised by Care Not Killing, in association with CARE and Right to Life, and featured contributions from speakers, including Catholic former MP Ann Widdecombe and Lord David Alton of Liverpool, as well as a host of others.

“Although we are still in the first half of this year we have already witnessed the publication of the Falconer Commission promoting assisting suicide, three Westminster parliamentary debates in which parliamentarians have spoken out in favour of changing the law, the announcement that a new bill is to be published in the Scottish Parliament legalising assisted suicide and a number of high profile cases in the courts which are being used by those promoting a change in the law to try and change public opinion,” the campaign group said in a statement.

“This has been accompanied by some extraordinarily biased media reporting, such as the recent Channel 4 Dispatches programme on Tony Nicklinson, a man with ‘Locked-in’ Syndrome who is challenging the law on murder by seeking permission for a doctor to be allowed to end his life.”

The campaign group also noted that, on Wednesday, the Voluntary Euthanasia Society (now called Dignity in Dying) was scheduled to hold a Lobby of Parliament event, with supporters being invited to attend a day of events promoting a change in the law and to go and see their Member of Parliament, pressing him or her to fight for the legalisation of assisted suicide.

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