Under British law, it is legal to commit suicide but illegal to help someone to do it. If Rob Marris, a Labour MP, has his way, that law will change. The Marris “Assisted Dying Bill” is seeking to change the law so it becomes legal, in certain circumstances, to provide physician assisted death. If you are terminally ill and only have six months left to live and you express a clear and settled desire to end your own life, providing two doctors and a judge agrees, then that option will be made available to you.
Choice is a funny thing though. True choice also only exists when we are free from pressure. In other words, it might look like I freely went along to the latest lecture on my course, but in reality, because I’d just failed my recent essay, that choice was actually a compulsion. I felt like I had to go along to it because if I didn’t, I would fall even further behind. Likewise, when someone chooses to end their own life, it is entirely possible that a multiplicity of factors lie behind that decision. If you feel you are being a burden, whether that’s emotionally or financially, might that not be a contributing factor in any decision you make? Suddenly the ‘right to die’ becomes the ‘duty to die’.
Aside from the pressure factor, evidence from Belgium recently highlighted people were being euthanized despite never expressing a desire for it. A study in 2012 showed 32% of assisted deaths in Belgium were carried out without being requested. That is a frightening and sobering reality. In countries where assisted suicide is already legal, there has been a pattern of expansion, where the law, initially limited to a select band of patients, is expanded to permit assisted dying in more varied circumstances. What on earth makes anyone think the UK would be any different?
As Christians we believe human life has an inherent dignity to it. That dignity is not determined or measured by circumstances or what we can give to society. It is intrinsic and based on the image of God. The Psalmist says humans have been made a little lower than the angels and crowned with glory and honour (Psalm 8:5 NIV). That glory and honour is the result of God’s handprint upon us. Someone with a disability or someone with a debilitating mental illness is no less precious or valuable. Allowing assisted suicide suggests life can lose its value. I disagree: dignity stems not from my manners, or how I walk, talk or think. It is an invisible reality of my being human.
If you are opposed to assisted suicide, then please will you write to your MP about it? It is very easy to think this will make no difference, but it does and MPs continue to vote based on what their constituents have to say. It is all too easy to be alarmed and concerned, and then do nothing. Don’t be that person. Take a stand, contact your MP and play your part in helping to defeat this unnecessary and dangerous Bill. You can also check out CARE’s ‘Live and Let Live’ resources to find out more.