Grave concern over ‘assisted dying’ Bill

8.10.2020 | Moderator, Church in Society, Statements, Public Affairs

Presbyterian Moderator, Rt Rev Dr David Bruce, has said he is 'deeply disappointed and gravely concerned' at last night's failure by TDs to reject the ‘Dying with Dignity Bill’, which passed to its next parliamentary stage on a vote of 81-71.

Speaking after the vote, Dr Bruce said, “This debate addresses matters of the deepest sensitivity. In seeking to bring support and comfort to those in significant distress, often towards the end of life, our ministers and chaplains are motivated by love and care, and always seek to affirm a person’s essential dignity.

“Two years ago members of our General Assembly, attending from across Ireland, discussed this matter and voted to oppose any legislation which allowed for assisted suicide, or euthanasia in these islands. At the same time, we strongly commended palliative care and called on the governments in both jurisdictions to ensure adequate resourcing of research and delivery in this important area. We make that call again today, agreeing with the HSE that the purpose of excellent palliative care is to ‘enhance quality of life’”.

The Moderator continued by saying, “We are deeply disappointed and gravely concerned by last night’s vote. This Bill of course raises fundamental questions about the value that is placed on human life in Ireland, something that we firmly believe to be a gift from God. At the same time, we welcome the acknowledgement by the government, in its failed amendment to the Bill, that there is no human right to access assisted suicide.”

Prior to last week’s debate on the Bill, the Moderator and one of his predecessors, Very Rev Dr Trevor Morrow, minister emeritus of Lucan Presbyterian Church and convener of the PCI panel that advises the Church on social, political and economic matters in the State, wrote to TDs encouraging them to ‘commit to enhancing the quality of life for all Irish citizens, particularly those with terminal or life-limiting conditions, rather than ending it.’

The Moderator concluded by saying, “In due course, we hope that we will have an opportunity to express our significant anxieties about this legislation directly to TDs and Senators as it progresses through the Oireachtas. We look forward to contributing to the national debate from the perspective of a pastor’s care, and affirming that assisted suicide is not an expression of compassion for those already suffering.”

In 2015, 150 people attended a PCI conference in Belfast that looked at end of life issues. The Church in the Public Square event brought together a number of leading thinkers in the UK to consider the role that Christians and the Church can play in wider community life under the theme 'Living and dying well'.

Contributors to the conference were:

  • Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, chair of the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Dying Well
  • Robert Preston, who 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 and
  • John Wyatt is Professor of Ethics and Perinatology at University College, London

You can hear the audio from that conference here.

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