Could euthanasia be legalised this year in the UK?

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There are a number of routes by which legal euthanasia could become a reality in the UK very soon, prompting calls for the Christian community to take action.

In recent decades there have been many failed attempts to introduce euthanasia – the deliberate ending of a person's life – in the UK. Currently it is illegal, as is assisting a suicide, although penalties are minimal in genuine cases of suffering.

However there are several legislative cogs turning in Westminster and the Scottish Parliament that could bring change. Any new laws are not likely to be in force until 2022, but the window of opportunity to stop them could be this year.

"This is probably the most profound threat we've faced," says Jamie Gillies from Christian campaigning charity CARE, in an interview with Christian Today.

"In 2015 it was voted on in Westminster and rejected, but attitudes in parliament have shifted, particularly in Scotland."

Campaigners say that although a change in the law appears to be motivated for compassion for those in great pain from terminal illness, any relaxation of the rules could lead to injustice and vulnerable people feeling pressured to end their lives.

And while the laws that get passed may be mild versions and only for "assisted suicide" rather than euthanasia where a doctor kills, countries such as the Netherlands and Belgium suggest that any small change in the law soon snowballs.

Jersey – not officially part of the UK, but a British Crown Dependency – is the most at risk. A recent 'citizen's jury' proposed very liberal changes that could allow euthanasia even for the mentally ill.

"What has been proposed is incredibly extreme," a spokesman for Care not Killing told Christian Today. "It shows what happens when you start breaking those most fundamental lines ... when patients are not going to be helped and supported, but their death will be hastened."

The Jersey government has to consider these proposals, and could debate them later this year.

In Westminster, a bill has been introduced into the House of Lords by Baroness Meacher, who is also the chair of Dignity in Dying. It will have a second reading later this year. If it is passed, there would still be a number of parliamentary hoops to jump through, but pro-euthanasia campaigners are positive that change will come soon.

Andrew Mitchell, Sutton Coldfield Conservative MP and the co-chair of a Commons group that aims to legalise euthanasia, told Sky News recently that the law will change in the near future: "I think that given the very limited nature of these proposals, that it would be for someone who is within six months of the end of their life, with very strong safeguards, the decision being made by a High Court judge, by two doctors – I think those limited proposals may command the support of Parliament in the next four years."

Earlier this year, former Health Secretary Matt Hancock appeared open to change in a response to a question from Mitchell – prompting speculation that he was considering changing the law. However, he later seemed to deny assisted suicide was an option. Campaigners are eagerly awaiting new Health Secretary Sajid Javid's first comments on the subject.

In the Scottish Parliament, a bill was debated in 2015 that was defeated, but the threat of new legislation is becoming more real. It is likely that a consultation on the subject will be issued this year or next.

"The campaign for assisted suicide in Scotland has been gathering momentum over the last few months," wrote Gillies.

These pushes for change come despite evidence that in countries where euthanasia has been legalised, there has been a "slippery slope" to expanding who can be euthanised, increases in the overall suicide rate, and other negative effects.

"It's vital that Christians write to their politicians and express their concerns," says Gillies. "In 2015, MPs got so much correspondence from constituents that a lot of them changed their minds on the issue, even at the last minute.

"Christians need to pray. It's clear from the Bible that assisting a person to commit suicide is wrong. Pray that this legislation won't pass, and MPs will be able to see the arguments against the change – the dangers for vulnerable people in society."