Change to assisted dying law would place elderly at risk, Church warns

The Church of England's adviser on medical ethics has warned against the legalisation of assisted dying.

Writing in The Church of England Newspaper this week, the Rev Dr Brendan McCarthy says that changing the existing laws would place elderly people at greater risk.

"Any change in the law will place vulnerable people at greater risk than at present. Society cannot afford to take an unrealistically optimistic view of human nature," she said.

"The fact that each year, in England, more than 300,000 elderly people are abused, often at the hands of their close relatives, ought to alert everyone to the dangers of creating new areas of potential abuse.”

Assisted suicide has made the headlines in recent years with supporters saying that people in extreme physical suffering should be able to choose when and how they die.

Opponents argue that there is a significant chance of assisted suicide being abused for personal gain and vulnerable people would be put at too great a risk.

The Church of England General Synod passed a motion in February reiterating that the current law should not be changed.

The motion affirmed the "intrinsic value of every human life" and expressed support for the current law on assisted suicide "as a means of contributing to a just and compassionate society in which vulnerable people are protected".

Dr McCarthy echoed these sentiments.

She stated: "Any relaxation of the law is likely to have unintended negative consequences for society’s appreciation of the intrinsic value of human life."

She noted that once enacted, assisted suicide and euthanasia "do not permit any change of mind".

Current guidelines from the Director of Public Prosecutions ensure that the law is applied in a "compassionate and humane manner”, she added.