WHY EVERY DIOCESE NEEDS AN ONLINE MINISTRY BY THE WORLD’S LEADING CATHOLIC BLOGGER FR JOHN ZUHLSDORF PAGE 12
November 20 2009 £1.20 (Republic of Ireland €1.70)
Assisted suicide guidelines pose ‘serious dangers’ to the public
BY MARK GREAVES
INCREASING NUMBERS of sick and elderly people could be put under pressure to kill themselves under new assisted suicide guidelines, peers and legal experts have said.
They argue that the guidelines, proposed by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), go against the will of Parliament and pose “serious dangers for public safety”.
The intervention was described by Archbishop Peter Smith of Cardiff, chairman of the bishops’ Department for Christian Responsibility and Citizenship, as “very significant”.
The experts include Baroness Butler-Sloss, former head of the family division of the High Court, and Lord Carlile of Berriew, the Government’s terrorism legislation adviser.
They have joined doctors and disability rights campaigners in backing a trenchant response to the guidelines by Care Not Killing, the antieuthanasia lobby group.
Keir Starmer, the DPP, drew up the guidelines in September to help lawyers decide whether to prosecute people for assisted suicide.
Care Not Killing’s statement, issued in response to a public consultation which lasts until December, said Mr Starmer’s proposals are “not fit for purpose”.
One of the mitigating factors against prosecution, according to the guidelines, is whether the victim had a serious illness, disability or a history of attempting suicide.
But Care Not Killing argued that this “flies in the face of the declared will of Parliament”, which has twice rejected legalising assisted suicide in such cases.
Its statement closely echoed concerns raised by the Catholic bishops of Eng-
Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, has produced guidelines on assisted suicide which some senior lawyers say pose a risk to public safety
land and Wales last month when they urged the faithful to write to Mr Starmer opposing the guidelines.
This week Archbishop Smith again urged Catholics to make their voice heard.
He said: “It is important that as many people as possible respond. The interim guidelines need amending to ensure the full protection of the law for people who are seriously ill or disabled.”
Archbishop Smith said the bishops’ conference would issue a formal response to the guidelines at the end of its plenary meeting this week.
The Care Not Killing statement was signed by Professor Sheila Hollins, a former president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, a former Lord Chancellor, Lord Walton of Detchant, an eminent neurologist,
Baroness Campbell of Surbiton, a campaigner for disability rights, and Baron McColl of Dulwich, a surgeon. It argued that the proposed guidelines shifted the role of the DPP from merely an enforcer to an arbitrator of the law.
They gave the impression, it said, that the DPP would in future be less likely to prosecute cases of assisted suicide. “Such an impression, were it
to take hold, poses serious dangers for public safety,” the statement said.
Dr Peter Saunders, the director of Care Not Killing, said: “The current law acts as a powerful deterrent against abuse and exploitation of vulnerable people and has been firmly upheld by Parliament. Removing these safeguards could lead to an increase in vulnerable and disabled people being pres-
sured into ending their lives.”
Out of 29 factors listed by the DPP as influencing whether a prosecution should be made, 11 were found by Care Not Killing to be “unacceptable in any circumstances”.
Dr Saunders said: “We recognise the attempt that the DPP has made to carry out a very difficult remit given to him by the Law Lords, and
there are several aspects of the guidelines that we can support.
“But current guidelines adopt, however unwittingly, the political assumptions of the pro-euthanasia lobby: that assisted suicide will not be prosecuted if the right boxes are ticked.”
Prof Hollins, whose daughter, Abigail Witchalls, was left paralysed after being stabbed in the neck, said the
guidelines “devalued life”. “People who are terminally ill, or who have a history of attempting suicide, may not get full protection under the law,” she said.
“There’s an assumption that their life is of less worth than people who don’t have these conditions. It is discriminatory.”
Prof Hollins, the only Catholic among the signatories, also said the DPP’s proposal to give special status to close family and friends was “dangerous”. Families, she said, might have a conflict of interest as they often pay for the care of a sick or elderly relative.
The DPP was instructed to draft the guidelines by the House of Lords after it ruled in favour of Debbie Purdy’s request to have the law clarified.
The guidelines emphasise that “only Parliament can change the law” and that no one can be offered immunity from prosecution before committing a crime. “Nothing in this policy can be taken to amount to such an assurance,” they said.
Meanwhile, a leading American anti-euthanasia campaigner warned the public this week that Britain was developing a “suicidefriendly culture”.
Wesley Smith said at a lecture in London that the DPP guidelines supported the idea “that it is better to be dead than continue living with the difficulties of serious disabilities and the debilitation of advanced age or illness”.
He argued that the proposals sent “a chilling societal message that the lives of disabled people are not as worthy of protecting as those of others and expose the most weak and vulnerable to exploitation and coercion in dying”.
Editorial comment: Page 13
College cancels visit by author who plans to become a Catholic
BY BRIGITTE ISTIM
A CHRISTIAN COLLEGE has cancelled an invitation it had made to the writer G P Taylor following his announcement that he intended to become a Catholic.
Graham Taylor, the author of Shadowmancer, was to spend a day in January at Moorlands College in Christchurch, Dorset, speaking to students and lecturers. Then he received an email from Dr Steve Brady, the
principal, which said: “I was saddened to read of your decision to leave the Anglican Church.
“In the light of your present circumstances I realise it would be both unhelpful and inappropriate for you to be with us in Moorlands this coming January... I herewith relieve you of that particular obligation.”
He said he suspected Mr Taylor was suffering from “personal angst”.
Founded in 1948, Moor-
lands offers theological courses, including post-graduate degrees. Lecturers come from Anglican and Evangelical backgrounds.
Dr Brady is the chairman of the Association of Bible College Principals. When asked why the visit was called off Dr Brady said the college was still “in conversation with Mr Taylor” and it would be inappropriate for him to comment further.
Mr Taylor said he was “at a loss” to understand why his
invitation to Moorlands has been withdrawn. He said: “It isn’t as though the college doesn’t know me. I spent a whole day there last year, talking to lecturers, students and visiting schoolchildren so they’ re familiar with my theological opinions.
“I think it’s tragic my visit has been cancelled and I’ d love to know why because I don’t think Dr Brady has made that clear.”
Letters: Page 13
John Paul II ‘to be Dublin parish roots declared Venerable’ for X Factor twins
BY CINDY WOODEN IN ROME
THE Congregation for the Causes of Saints has voted unanimously to recommend that Pope Benedict XVI formally recognises that Pope John Paul II heroically lived the Christian virtues, Italian newspapers have reported.
The Vatican did not deny or confirm that the vote took place because the process is supposed to be secret until
Pope Benedict signs the decree recognising the heroic virtueofhispredecessorand declares him Venerable.
Pope Benedict generally signs a dozen or more decrees three times a year: in April, in June or July and in December.
Members of the Saints’ Congregation meet regularly to study the life stories, eyewitness testimony and other documentation promoting the Causes of proposed saints. The information is contained in a positio, or position paper, prepared by the promoter of the individual’s cause.
BY MARK GREAVES
PARISHIONERS in a Dublin suburb have spoken of their enthusiastic support for the X Factor twins Jedward.
Anne Butler, secretary at St Patrick’s, Lucan, said the 18-year-old singers James and Edward Grimes were “well supported” at the parish where they attended Mass. She said huge crowds saw the X Factor
results show at the Lord Lucan pub down the road. “I could hear them all shouting when [the twins] got through the other night,” she said.
Rickie Grogan, assistant manager at the pub, said
parishioners came to see
the show after Mass on Sunday. “The atmos-
phere is electric,” he said. “People come
from all quarters
of Ireland, and even from
England, to support them in their home town.”
MISS: HOW TO BECOME A CANONISED SAINT PAGE 9
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