Church of Scotland to review position on assisted suicide

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The Church of Scotland General Assembly has voted to review its position on assisted suicide as Scottish parliamentarians prepare to consider whether to legalise the practice.

A majority of commissioners at the General Assembly in Edinburgh voted in support of "exploring more deeply the diverse views held by Kirk members on the controversial subject".

The Kirk has traditionally been opposed to assisted suicide. 

The issue has come to the forefront of national debate because of fresh attempts to change the law. Leading the campaign in Holyrood is Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur, whose Member's Bill wants to allow competent terminally ill adults to request assistance to die.

The debate in the General Assembly on Wednesday recognised a diversity of opinions on the topic among Kirk members.

The countermotion backed by the General Assembly was put forward by Rev Jonathan Fleming and pledges to bring a new report on the issue back to a future meeting. 

Opponents of assisted suicide in the Kirk include its outgoing General Assembly Moderator, the Rt Rev Iain Greenshields.

He joined other faith leaders in addressing MSPs in the Scottish Parliament last week, urging them to protect the most vulnerable by preserving the current law.

Rev Greenshields said: "Our opposition to assisted dying is based on our Christian faith, and involves concerns around the principle of assisted dying, around the application of the law in practice, the perception of the value of human lives, and also the effect which any change is likely to have on the provision of care - in particular, on palliative care."