Christian leaders from all of Guernsey’s churches have united in opposition to a proposed bill to legalise assisted dying on the island.
In an open letter signed by 53 ministers and officials from Catholic, Church of England and Methodist churches on the island, the group write that they believe the proposal to legalise assisted dying is “misplaced” and a “danger for us as a community”, particularly the most vulnerable.
“To assist in the death of another is essentially to assist in their suicide. A “choice” by the State to introduce assisted-dying will change our island and will be seen as a threat by people living with various disabilities, vulnerable people and ultimately, perhaps, by all of us, as we approach the end of our lives,” they write.
“As a community we need to celebrate and support all of life and not actively seek to terminate life,” they urge.
“Every life is a gift that is precious and worthy of defence. Living life in all its fullness will include darker times, pain and sorrow. This is part of the rich diversity and tapestry of life that also provides opportunities for care, generosity, kindness and selfless love,” the letter continues.
The bill, which has the backing of the island’s chief minister Gavin St Pier, is due to be voted on in Guernsey’s parliament on 16 May.
If its 40 members come down in favour of the bill, Guernsey could become the first place in the British Isles to legalise assisted dying.
It could open up a pathway for UK mainland residents to travel to Guernsey to end their life if they so choose.
Guernsey is a self-governing British Crown dependency, so has its own legislative body and the freedom to set its own laws. Yet the UK Government has powers to intervene if there are implications for the UK, and the matter will go before the Privy Council.
Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth, whose Portsmouth diocese includes Guernsey, spoke out against the assisted suicide bill in a pastoral letter last month. In it he urged Catholics to “mobilise” and to “speak out against this proposal.”
“Someone near the end of life needs emotional support, comfort and care, good pain control, respect and loving communication – not suicide on prescription,” Bishop Egan wrote.
PICTURE: A demonstrator against "assisted dying" joins a protest outside the Houses of Parliament in London 2015. (CNS photo/Stefan Wermuth, Reuters)