Archbishop warns proposal will ‘hijack’ anti-suicide bill
Archbishop Peter Smith
Archbishop Peter Smith

.- Archbishop of Cardiff Peter Smith has written a letter to The Times voicing his concern that changes to a bill intended to regulate websites that encourage suicide will “hijack” the proposal by protecting those who assist in suicides in other countries.

Archbishop Smith’s March 20 letter to The Times explained that the Coroners and Justice Bill aims to bring within the law “predatory internet websites that promote or encourage suicide.”

According to The Guardian, the proposed change to the bill, made by former health secretary Patricia Hewitt, says that any act “done solely or principally for the purpose of enabling or assisting (an individual) to travel to a country or territory in which assisted dying is lawful" would not be treated as "encouraging or assisting” a suicide. It reportedly is backed by more than 100 Ministers of Parliament.

In his letter, the archbishop said that defenders of suicide argue there is a difference between “malicious encouragement of suicide” and assistance with suicide “in compassionate circumstances.”

“The real world just isn’t like that,” he said, arguing that lawmakers must take into account the seriously ill or incapacitated elderly parent who feels guilty at the “burden of care,” or the relative whose suicide could be “subtly encouraged” by others in order to secure an inheritance.

“People like this have already heard suggestions from one eminent advocate of legalised euthanasia that sufferers from dementia are wasting NHS resources and the lives of others, and should consider whether they have a duty to die,” he warned.

“As things stand, they have the law’s protection: assisting suicide is illegal. But, if it is made legal in certain situations, that would open a door not just for the self-possessed and self-confident minority who are sure they want it, but for many more who might persuade themselves, or be subtly persuaded by others, that that is the best course for them — and for those around them,” Archbishop Smith’s letter concluded.

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