By an overwhelming majority the House of Commons rejected a Bill which would have made it legal for death to be assisted in certain circumstances. Although those proposing the change in the law argued that there were sufficient safeguards involving two doctors and a high court judge, the proposed change was defeated.
In an unprecedented alliance of faith traditions, leaders of the Anglican, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Salvation Army, and Pentecostal churches along with leaders of the Jewish, Sikh and Muslim communities wrote to every MP setting out the reasons why they were opposed to the proposed law. Acknowledging that there were moral and ethical considerations, the faith leaders chose to focus on pastoral care reasons.
Their chief argument was that the change would place an additional burden on the vulnerable; that they might feel, or be pressurized to feel, that they had become s burden to their loved ones and ought therefore to choose the path of assisted dying. Members of the House of Commons who were themselves doctors argued that the change would fundamentally alter the doctor – patient relationship.
Many who opposed the Bill pointed to the advances in palliative care. Those of us who have benefitted from the care of the Hospices in Dublin and the hospice teams who visit the terminally ill in their homes know the lengths they go to to ensure that no-one dies in pain and that everyone dies in dignity.