Pay attention to this debate in England because with the Affordable Health Care Act, the decline of Christian influence and thinking in this country, et al., it is coming to a hospital, nursing home, and other health care facilities near you and will hit you between the eyes before you know it. Be prepared, therefore, to think Christianly and soberly about this huge and important issue. As usual, his grace is unapologetically blunt and direct and so should we be. From Archbishop Cranmer’s blog.
The Church of England’s position on this matter is (refreshingly) unequivocal:
The Church of England cannot support Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill.. Patient safety, protection of the vulnerable and respect for the integrity of the doctor-patient relationship are central to the Church of England’s concerns about any proposal to change the law. Our position on the current Bill before parliament is also consistent with the approach taken by the Archbishops’ Council, House of Bishops and with successive resolutions of the General Synod.
Death is not simply a divine distalgesic: it is the passing of the soul to judgment and into eternity. Hitherto, God has determined the number of our days. Lord Falconer and Canon Rosie Harper are of the view that people should be assisted to kill themselves, should they so require. This is about ‘rights’ and ‘choice’ and ‘compassion’ and ‘dignity in dying’, because leaving it all to God is a manifest denial of rights and choice, totally lacking in compassion and devoid of any dignity whatsoever. Death can be painful and messy, so let’s make it quick and clinical.
Those of us who believe in the sanctity of life are cruelly putting our ‘conscience’ above ‘compassion’, and we all know how that language game works.
Canon Harper insists no one will be coerced. But wedges have thin ends, and slopes can be awfully slippery. Make no mistake, this is a step toward terminating the lives of the sick and vulnerable, not to mention those who feel worthless, depressed, lonely, unloved and unvalued. They may not be forced to die, but they will certainly feel less of a burden on their families and on society if their deaths were to be hastened.
Instead of demanding the right to die, the Church ought to be concerned with optimism, hope and improving palliative care. Indeed, the Church is prioritising these things, but Canon Harper is not. Her mode of compassion prioritises the eradication of suffering, and those who oppose her in her quest are immoral and un-Christian. There is no debate to be had or doubt in her mind.
The suffering of Job was immense: his mental anguish and physical pain made him desire death, and he cried out for it. Had he been ‘assisted’ to that end, he would not have seen his vindication and God’s glory would not have been revealed. He wasn’t protected by a ‘six months to live’ clause, but his comforters wouldn’t have been overly concerned about that. Your GP might know you have nine months or year to live, but he’ll compassionately give you six so you may legally make the choice to ‘die with dignity’. Once the legal right is embedded in our culture, there will be incremental nudges toward expectation and thence to the Belgian option, where they are legally euthanising their children. What is that if it is not immoral and un-Christian?