UK Catholic bishop urges Catholics to consider end-of-life issues before general election

Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury, England, pictured on April 4, 2012 Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury, England. | Credit: Mazur/catholicchurch.org.uk

A Catholic bishop in England has urged Catholics to make assisted suicide and euthanasia a major consideration before they vote in the forthcoming general election. 

Following the announcement on May 22 that there would be a general election on July 4, Bishop Mark Davies of the Diocese of Shrewsbury has issued a letter to his flock urging them to remember the most vulnerable before they vote. 

In his preelection statement dated June 5, Davies referred indirectly to member of Parliament Keir Starmer, the leader of the opposition, when he wrote: “At least one party leader has indicated that he will proactively make parliamentary time available for a change in the law to be considered that will remove many of the legal safeguards which have long protected some of the most vulnerable members of our society.”

“Amid the many questions of policy being considered in the weeks ahead, this must surely be a central issue,” he continued.

Davies continued by arguing that the legalization of assisted suicide and/or euthanasia would further advance the “culture of death,” posing a serious threat to the elderly, children, and the mentally ill.

He wrote: “The sanctity of human life transcends party politics because it impacts upon the moral foundations of our life together.”

“Opening the doors to euthanasia would change the medical and nursing professions in their relationship to the sick and the aged; distort the way the sick and the elderly are viewed in society when it is less costly to kill rather than to care; put intolerable pressures on the sick and the aged, who are made to feel a burden; and advance a culture of death, which has extended to more and more people in countries where euthanasia has been adopted, even extending to the mentally ill and to children,” he said.

Assisted suicide is currently illegal in England and Wales and is a crime punishable for up to 14 years in prison.

The campaign to legalize assisted suicide gathered fresh momentum at the end of last year when U.K. TV personality and campaigner Esther Rantzen announced that she had joined Dignitas and may end her life there following her cancer diagnosis.

Dignitas is a controversial suicide center based in Zurich, Switzerland, where some British people have chosen to end their lives early, including Sir Edward Downes and his wife, Lady Downes, in 2009.

Sir Edward was not terminally ill but elected to die with his wife who had terminal cancer.

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