Significant development in Bishops’ thinking on euthanasia threat
19 July 2004
Significant development in Bishops’ thinking on euthanasia threat Westminster, 19 July 2004 - The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) has responded to Archbishop Peter Smith's statement on behalf of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales today. "SPUC believes that Archbishop Smith's statement is a significant development in the thinking of the hierarchy on this Bill," said Paul Tully, SPUC general secretary. "We are pleased that the Archbishop has recognised that the opposition of SPUC and of other leading critics of the Bill is based on 'many reasonable fears' (paragraph 13), and we are relieved by his expression of concern (in paragraph 20) that the Bill may be contrary to the teaching of Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae. "The bishops have said that they are not satisfied by the government's assurances about the Bill. The statement, however, comes to a number of conclusions which are not consistent with one another. For instance, the statement says: We believe that with clause 58 [asserting that the Bill doesn't legalise killing] the Bill cannot now be described correctly as a Bill introducing a permission for euthanasia, which must be opposed for this reason. (§17) "But shortly after this the Archbishop says: What is needed is a clause ... [which] would make it straightforwardly true that the Bill does not permit euthanasia. (§20) "Again, on the one hand, the Archbishop's statement welcomes clause 58 as preventing euthanasia: We had argued that the inclusion of a clause such as Clause 58 was the minimum required to provide the necessary assurance that nothing in the Bill permits euthanasia. (§7) A doctor who withholds treatment simply because it has been forbidden by a statutory proxy's decision, or by a statutorily valid and applicable advance decision, will not be acting unlawfully... Commonsense would say that the doctor's conduct is assisting the euthanasiast or suicidal project. ... But in law and professional ethics the doctor's conduct, being intended only to comply with legal requirements shaped by this Bill, will be unchallengeable. (§19) "The dangers of the Mental Capacity Bill must not be underestimated, and therefore SPUC will continue to campaign urging MPs to vote against the Bill at Second Reading, on the basis that it enshrines euthanasia by neglect in statute law," concluded Mr Tully.