10 September 2004

Methodist Church makes written response to Select Commmittee on Assisted Dying

The Methodist Church in Britain has submitted its written response to the Select Committee currently studying the Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill. The Church retains its opposition to euthanasia, but recognises the moral complexities found in some situations.

Anthea Cox, Co-ordinating Secretary for Public Life and Social Justice, thanked the Select Committee for its invitation to respond to the Bill, and pointed out that the Methodist response follows debate that has taken place at Conference, in committees and working groups.

The Methodist Church response reads, in part: "The Methodist Church opposes euthanasia but recognises that this does not lessen the complex moral problems integral to the final stages of some terminal illnesses. The Christian tradition insists on the infinite respect owed to every individual human being. This respect is not proportional to their level of well-being, nor to any assessment of how seriously ill, injured or disabled they are."

The response refers the committee to the Methodist debate on living wills (also known as advance directives) in 1993. Many of the concerns raised there are also relevant regarding Assisted Dying. The Church is concerned about these for four reasons. First, Advance Directives "may not give sufficient opportunity for patient to change their mind in situations [that] were not accurately foreseen. Second, they may not have sufficient safeguards to inhibit the desired medical action or inaction before a distressing situation goes into remission. Third, vulnerable people may be exposed to undue pressure in construing their Advance Directives. Fourth, no Advance Directive can cover all conceivable circumstances to which a patient may come."

The Church welcomes parts of the Bill that state that assisted dying could only be requested due to the current condition of the person seeking such a process, and that any individual seeking assisted dying would have to be judged competent. Nonetheless, "the above concerns would continue to apply to protect vulnerable people in the controls and processed outlined in the Bill. We are not sure they are sufficient to enable people to make appropriate choices."

The Methodist Church will continue to engage its members in this debate, recognising that there are some divergent views within the membership. The Church welcomes this ongoing debate on this important and challenging issue.

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