1 June 2023

Former Archbishop of Canterbury calls assisted dying ‘profoundly Christian’

Written by Graham Nicholls

A former Archbishop of Canterbury has called on the government to set aside time for debate on a law to allow assisted dying, saying it is ‘profoundly Christian’ to ensure no one suffers against their will.

This is not the first time he has said this. Lord George Carey, former leader of the Church of England, intervened in 2014 when a bill was being discussed in the House of Lords to express his support for the proposal as a way of preventing ‘needless suffering’. Putting someone out of their misery is an emotive and compelling argument and seems like a compassionate step but to call it ‘profoundly Christian’ is extremely false.

There is a complete misunderstanding of Christian theology in Lord Carey’s statement. Yes, we want to care for people in a way that minimises suffering whilst they stay alive. But we do not have the right to actively end someone’s life by medical intervention. Since all humans are made in the image of God, we accept the intrinsic dignity of all people even at the end of their lives. 

Furthermore, it is also wrong to think the avoidance of suffering against our will is a Christian goal. Sometimes God does take us through paths of suffering for his own good purposes, even though it is not what we would choose for ourselves.

It also seems naïve to believe that this will not in practice lead to vulnerable people being put under pressure, real or imagined, to end their lives prematurely which will extend beyond the terminally ill to the lonely, the mentally ill, and those living with disabilities and chronic health conditions who might feel obliged to end their lives to take control and to ease the burden on others.

The ex-Archbishop would make better use of the platform he has to call for better palliative care for those in the last stages of life and talk about the hope the gospel offers, that all the suffering this life brings will be one day be over when there will be no more dying – whether natural or assisted.

Steve Fouch, who is Head of Communications at Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) and has worked in community nursing, HIV & AIDS and palliative care, recently wrote for our Social Issues Bulletin on the topic of assisted dying.

Written by
Graham Nicholls
Graham is the Director of Affinity and provides strategic leadership of the ministry teams oversees the day-to-day operations and regularly writes and speaks in the media. Graham is also one of the pastors of Christ Church Haywards Heath. He is married to Caroline and has three grown-up children, plenty of grandchildren and a wild dog.

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