Hosted jointly by the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and Union Theological College, the theme of the event is 'Living and Dying Well' and will address the ethical, pastoral and legal issues surrounding attempts to legislate in favour of assisted suicide.
Conference co-chair, Professor Stafford Carson of Union Theological College said, "In recent months there has been increasing debate on whether or not the law should be changed in this country to permit a doctor to kill his terminally ill patients or to assist them in their suicide should they so request.
"There are a number of important issues that many lawyers, doctors and pastors are facing, issues like does medically-assisted death have a place within healthcare? Is medically-assisted death just another end-of-life choice that some people have to make? Would a change in the current legislation put pressure on vulnerable people to consider assisted dying because they were making demands on their carers?
"These questions raise major theological and ethical issues which cause much concern for individuals who are directly affected, as well as for legislators and those in the legal, medical and caring professions," he said.
The conference brings together leading thinkers in the UK to consider the role that Christians and the Church can play in wider community life. Helping to guide the thoughts of delegates from both the church and medical world will be three keynote speakers:
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff
Baroness Finlay is chairwoman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Dying Well. She is a professor of palliative medicine at Cardiff University and is the current President of the BMA as well as a past president of the Royal Society of Medicine.
She will speak on 'End of Life or Ending Life', focusing in some depth on the medical aspects of end of life care; explaining what palliative care is, how it has developed and how it differs from what is called 'palliative care' in other jurisdictions. She will also discuss the implications of a change in the law for end of life care.
Robert Preston was Clerk to the House of Lord's select committee which examined Lord Joffe's Private Member's Bill, 'Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill' in 2004-05. He is Director of the think-tank, Living and Dying Well, which works to examine the objective evidence surrounding the controversial end-of-life debate and publishes research to help inform Parliament and the public.
His talk will be entitled, 'The Assisted Dying' Debate: An Overview' where he will give an overview of the subject, linking the various strands together to show how they interact with each other.
Professor John Wyatt
John Wyatt is Professor of Ethics and Perinatology at University College, London. He has lectures widely on issues in ethics from a Christian perspective and his most prominent book is Matters of life and death: Today's healthcare dilemmas in the light of Christian Faith.
Professor Wyatt has been a member of All Souls Church in London since first coming to London as a medical student and has worked as a specialist in the medical care of newborn infants for more than 20 years.
This is the third Church in the Public Square event and will take place on Thursday, 22nd January 2015 in Assembly Buildings, Fisherwick Place, Belfast, 10.30am-3.30pm. Lunch will be provided.
How to book a place at the conference, download a booking form from Union Theological College or
contact +44 (0)28 9020 5080. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tickets are £20 with a discounted rate of £12 for full-time students.
Closing date for registration is Monday, 19th January.