Warning that a proposed euthanasia bill for parts of the U.K. would mark the “catastrophic collapse” of respect for life, Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth, England, is urging a day of united prayer against it.
Bishop Egan asked Catholics to pray a Holy Hour of Eucharistic Adoration on Thursday, July 17, the day before the bill’s second reading in the House of Lords.
“(P)lease pray that Parliament will firmly reject this bill,” the bishop said July 14.
The proposed bill would change the law in England and Wales, which presently punish assisted suicide by up to 14 years in prison. Introduced by Lord Falconer, a peer with the Labour Party, the legislation would allow doctors to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to seriously ill patients who request them and who are believed to have less than six months to live.
Bishop Egan said that legalizing assisted suicide would mean the “catastrophic collapse of respect for the infinite value of each human life and every human person, no matter how weak, vulnerable and ‘useless’.”
He encouraged the Catholic faithful to write the peers of the House of Lords to oppose the bill. He also asked for prayers for the terminally ill and for “the generous and selfless doctors, nurses and medical staff who care for them.”
The bishop said that suicide is “a grave offense against God” because “we are the stewards, not the owners, of the life that God has entrusted to us.”
“Our life is not ours to dispose of.”
Bishop Egan encouraged Catholics to pray for those who are dying today and for relatives who are caring for dying loved ones.
“And pray for our country, that through the intercession of the Blessed Mother, there may be a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit.”
Other opponents of the bill include Theo Boer, a professor at The Netherlands’ University of Utrecht who has monitored euthanasia deaths as part of a review committee in his home country since 2005.
He told Members of Parliament that he was “wrong – terribly wrong” to believe that regulated euthanasia would work, the British newspaper The Daily Mail reports.
“Cases have been reported in which a large part of the suffering of those given euthanasia or assisted suicide consisted in being aged, lonely or bereaved,” he said.
“Some of these patients could have lived for years or decades. Pressure on doctors to conform to patients’ – or in some cases relatives’ – wishes can be intense.”
He said review committees had not been able to stop these developments.
Boer voiced concern that euthanasia eligibility under Dutch law had been extended to the demented and the depressed. He also warned that some euthanasia advocates aim to make lethal pills available to anyone over 70 who wishes to die.
The Catholic bishops of England and Wales said that suicide should not be encouraged or assisted. The bill, they said, would reinforce pressures on the vulnerable to kill themselves and would remove the present law’s deterrent effects.
In a June 25 briefing, the bishops cited Pope Francis’ words to Catholics in Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales: “Even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect.”
The bishops endorsed “high quality care for the dying,” rather than assisted suicide.