Amid strong Christian opposition to the legalization of assisted suicide in the U.K., former Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey has broken away. He took part in a video for a group backing assisted suicide and claims that it is “profoundly Christian” to help people end their lives. “There’s nothing noble about excruciating pain and I think we need as a nation to give people the right to decide their own fate,” the former head clergyman of the Church of England said in a video for the pro-assisted suicide campaign group Dignity in Dying. “In my view it is a profoundly Christian and moral thing to devise a law that enables people if they so choose to end their lives with dignity,” he said, according to the U.K.-based Premier Christian Radio. Under current law in the United Kingdom, it is illegal to encourage or to help someone attempt to take their own life. On Sept. 11 the House of Commons will debate and vote on a private member’s bill to legalize assisted suicide. Like the Catholic Church, the Church of England opposes changes to current U.K. law. On July 16 it urged churchgoers to contact their MPs to oppose the bill. James Newcome, the Anglican Bishop of Carlisle and the group's lead bishop on health care, said legalization would create a “very uncertain and dangerous” future for the most vulnerable, such as the elderly and the disabled. “This is a key moment for all of us as we decide what sort of society we want to live in and what future we want for our children and grandchildren, one in which all are valued and cared for, or one in which some lives are viewed as not worth living,” he said. The Church of England’s general synod unanimously passed a motion to oppose the bill. The current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has called assisted suicide “mistaken and dangerous.” The Catholic Church in England and Wales urged opposition to the bill in a July 1 Question and Answer, which stressed that every person’s life is equally worthy of respect and compassion. Those say they wish to die, the statement said, “deserve care, support and sometimes medical treatment for depression, not assistance with suicide.” It emphasized the duty to provide good pain control and hospice care for those in need. “The Church teaches that life is a gift from God and supports high quality care for the dying and protection for the weak and vulnerable.” Lord Carey said he thought Parliament could craft laws that are resistant to abuse and unintended consequences. However, the Catholic Church statement said it is “wishful thinking” to think there would be adequate safeguards once the ethical and legal principles against assisted suicide are violated. It pointed to abuses in Holland and several U.S. states where assisted suicide is legal or not prosecuted. The statement said doctors in these places often fail to diagnose clinical depression in those who would be eligible for legal suicide. “Each year the numbers dying by assisted suicide increase and the ‘safeguards’ are taken less and less seriously,” the statement charged.
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