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Unpacking the Euthanasia debate

As the End of Life Choice Bill (EOLC) sits before Parliament, our Church’s social justice group have released new resources to help Anglicans understand the wider ethical landscape surrounding the practice of euthanasia.

Taonga News  |  28 Aug 2019

The Anglican Social Justice Resources website team have newly loaded resources aimed at helping Christians unpack the deeper and broader issues that will come into play if the ‘End of Life Choice Bill’ were to be passed.

In a 20-minute video message, Archbishop Philip Richardson lays out the theological reasons why nine Anglican bishops from across Aotearoa New Zealand stood in opposition to the EOLC Bill’s law changes that would enable terminally ill patients to end their lives with a physician’s help.

Archbishop Philip also refers to the submission  of three Anglican bishops who did not oppose the EOLC Bill, but cautioned against legalising euthanasia without stringent safeguards.

Aotearoa New Zealand’s nine Anglican bishops opposing the EOLC Bill set out both medical and moral reasons to leave the law as it is now, noting that existing medical treatments for the dying offer many interventions that alleviate pain and suffering, and can already assist in a gentler departure for people at the edge of death.

In his video presentation, Archbishop Philip calls on Christians to stand firm in our understanding of human life as having a greater value than the sum of what we can or cannot do,

“As Christians, we say that our individual human life and human worth does not depend on ability, or gifts, or capacity, or even on the quality of our life, but rather on our status as being made in God’s image and likeness.” he said. 

Another submission now available on the Anglican Social Justice resources website comes from Auckland Disability Community chaplain, the Rev Vicki Terrell.

Rev Vicki Terrell cites fears in the disability community that legalising euthanasia could lead to people with physical or intellectual impairments coming under duress to end their lives.

“The proponents of the bill argue that this debate is all about individual autonomy without consideration of the wider effect on society.” writes Vicki.

 “While on the surface, assisting an individual who is sick and dying to take their own life may be seen as a compassionate act, we, as a society, need to take heed of the inherent dangers in such a bill.”

“Assisted dying/suicide could so easily be extended to people who are vulnerable because of age, disability and terminal illness because others perceived it as being in their best interests.” she writes. 

A third set of resources to help Anglicans get their heads around the wider connotations of euthanasia is now available from the Diocese of Waikato and Taranaki.

The Waikato-Taranaki resource is an extensive reading list on euthanasia (available here) that includes a range of expert voices weighing up the outcomes of implementing legal euthanasia – particularly flow-on effects that may not be immediately obvious.

Archbishop Philip concludes his video reflection with a renewed call for Aotearoa New Zealand to invest more in helping people to die well, rather than focusing on laws that enable designated physicians to aid suicide,

“We need proper care for the dying - we need to provide accessible hospice care for everyone. The anxiety and fear of being alone, of not being supported, could be alleviated by better care…”

“Love is better served in accompanying the person in their dying.”

Further links

Two further resources are available from the Aotearoa New Zealand churches’ joint medical, scientific and ethics experts on the InterChurch Bioethics Council:

 InterChurch Bioethics Council written submission on the ‘End of Life Choice Bill’

InterChurch Bioethics Council oral submission