Assisted dying open to abuse, CofE warns

The Church of England has warned politicians that changing the law on assisted dying would have "potentially damaging consequences".

The Church's Mission and Public Affairs Council was responding to a consultation on the Draft Assisted Dying Bill.

It expressed concern over any change to the law that would "permit people actively to participate in bringing about the deaths of other individuals".

"The draft bill seeks genuinely to meet the stated wishes of a small number of people," the council acknowledged.

However, it concluded that the bill "fails sufficiently to recognise its potentially damaging consequences".

"It is essential that society values and affirms the life and wellbeing of each of its members, regardless of age, illness, disability or economic or social status," the response says.

"A change in the law on assisted suicide has the capacity to undermine this by suggesting that society may be complicit in some individuals deliberately and actively ending others' lives prematurely.

"Important health and social care messages and interventions such as those aimed at suicide prevention or at giving reassurance of compassionate and effective end of life care are difficult to reconcile with a law that would enable health professionals to participate in actively ending patients' lives."

Permitting assisted dying would have a "far-reaching" and "damaging" effect on the nature of society - a "price too great to pay for whatever perceived benefits they might arguably bring to a few", the council said.

It also warned that a law allowing assisted dying would be open to abuse.

"While recognising that individuals who wish to have assistance in ending their own lives may be seen as being vulnerable, their position needs to be considered alongside the obvious vulnerability of more than 300,000 elderly people who suffer abuse each year in England and Wales, very many of them at the hands of their own family members, often for pecuniary reasons," the council continued.

"The question must be asked: on balance, might a change in the law place more vulnerable people at increased risk of neglect, marginalisation or abuse? Unless the answer can be a demonstrable and convincing 'no' it would be negligent in the extreme to contemplate such a change."