Former archbishops split on assisted suicide, and there’s no Anglican via media

Sep 13, 2021 by

by Archbishop Cranmer:

In the red corner is George, Lord Carey of Clifton, Archbishop of Canterbury 1991-2002. He favours the legalisation of assisted suicide (or assisted dying, if you prefer) because “there is nothing holy about agony“. In the blue corner is Rowan, Lord Williams of Oystermouth, Archbishop of Canterbury 2002-2012. He opposes assisted suicide (or assisted dying, if you prefer) because of “the unacceptably high price of a change in the law“.

There is no good old CofE via media between these two extremes: either the law permits assisted suicide, or the law prohibits it. If there were a middle way, Justin Welby (Archbishop of Canterbury 2012-today) would have found it. But he is firmly in the blue corner: he opposes assisted suicide (or assisted dying, if you prefer) because “a change in the law to permit assisted suicide would cross a fundamental legal and ethical Rubicon“.

The arguments are well known and well-rehearsed: it is essentially a choice between human autonomy and the sanctity of life, with both sides claiming human compassion, societal virtue and clinical obligation. What is wrong with the ‘right to death’, Lord Carey might ask, provided that we protect the vulnerable with safeguards and judicial oversight?

And Lord Williams might respond that we can never protect all of the vulnerable because we can never know all the pressures to which they are subject, especially “from overstrained families as well as overstretched medical systems”. This is a compassionate concern also articulated by Justin Welby:

Read here

Read also:

Former Archbishops set out opposing views on assisted suicide by Donna Birrell, Premier

Response to Lord Carey and Rabbi Jonathan Romain on ‘doctor assisted dying’, by Revd Dr Brendan McCarthy, the Church of England’s National Adviser on Medical Ethics and Health and Social Care Policy in a letter to the editor, BMJ:

Assisted suicide bill at Westminster likely debated in weeksfrom CARE [The bill’s second reading is scheduled in the House of Lords for 22nd October.]


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