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Bishop of Carlisle steps into row over assisted dying

The Bishop of Carlisle is calling for an inquiry into assisted dying.

James Newcome photo
The Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Rev James Newcome

The Rt Rev James Newcome, who speaks for the Church of England on health, made the intervention just days before the House of Lords considers a Bill on the matter.

The Bill, tabled by Lord Falconer, would allow doctors to prescribe a lethal dose of drugs to terminally-ill patients judged to have fewer than six months to live.

The Bishop called for Lord Falconer to withdraw the Bill in favour of a Royal Commission on the subject.

He said the Church had been surprised by an article written by Lord Carey in Saturday’s Daily Mail, in which the former Archbishop of Canterbury dropped his long-standing opposition to legalising assisted dying.

The Bishop of Carlisle said: “It has brought the issues to the forefront of public discussion and highlighted what an important issue this is. Certainly, our hope as the Church of England is that the Falconer Bill will be withdrawn and that, because this is such an important issue, it could be discussed at length by a Royal Commission.”

The Bishop said that the Supreme Court ruling last month over the case brought by the widow of locked-in syndrome sufferer Tony Nicklinson had “heightened the stakes”.

A Royal Commission would allow the arguments to be “carefully assessed” and for expert opinion to be taken.

He added that the Church of England is in favour of the law on assisted suicide to remain unaltered as it provides a “good balance” between compassion and protection of the vulnerable.

His call for a Royal Commission was immediately rejected by Lord Falconer, a former Labour Lord Chancellor, whose Bill receives a second reading in the House of Lords on Friday.

Lord Carey said he would be backing Lord Falconer’s Bill and warned that, by opposing reform, the Church risked “promoting anguish and pain”.

Have your say

I thought god didn't like anyone to suffer, religious bodies should keep out of this discussion.

Posted by John Atkinson on 17 July 2014 at 21:03

Nearly all objections to allowing assisted dying stem from religious beliefs and essentially boils down to 'I believe this, therefore everyone else must do it too'.

Have a faith, that's fine, but the moment you try to impose your beliefs on me, expect resistance.

Posted by Dagsannr on 17 July 2014 at 08:18

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