Methodist Church makes written response to Select Commmittee on Assisted Dying

The Methodist Church in Britain has submitted its writtenresponse to the Select Committee currently studying the AssistedDying for the Terminally Ill Bill. The Church retains itsopposition to euthanasia, but recognises the moral complexitiesfound in some situations.

Anthea Cox, Co-ordinating Secretary for Public Life and SocialJustice, thanked the Select Committee for its invitation to respondto the Bill, and pointed out that the Methodist response followsdebate that has taken place at Conference, in committees andworking groups.

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

The response refers the committee to the Methodist debate onliving wills (also known as advance directives) in 1993. Many ofthe concerns raised there are also relevant regarding AssistedDying. The Church is concerned about these for four reasons. First,Advance Directives "may not give sufficient opportunity for patientto change their mind in situations [that] were not accuratelyforeseen. Second, they may not have sufficient safeguards toinhibit the desired medical action or inaction before a distressingsituation goes into remission. Third, vulnerable people may beexposed to undue pressure in construing their Advance Directives.Fourth, no Advance Directive can cover all conceivablecircumstances to which a patient may come."

The Church welcomes parts of the Bill that state that assisteddying could only be requested due to the current condition of theperson seeking such a process, and that any individual seekingassisted dying would have to be judged competent. Nonetheless, "theabove concerns would continue to apply to protect vulnerable peoplein the controls and processed outlined in the Bill. We are not surethey are sufficient to enable people to make appropriatechoices."

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