European Protestants work on common euthanasia position

European Protestants met in Vienna last week for a consultation to begin the process of drawing up a common position on euthanasia.

The Specialist Group on Ethics of the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe and other Protestant experts on the subject of euthanasia are looking at existing position papers from CPCE member churches to help draw up the common statement.

Group coordinator, Dr Dieter Heidtmann said, "The positions of the churches are based on the same values and convictions, but on individual questions they arrive at different results."

He added that Europe's Protestant churches were "grappling intensively" with the tension between individual autonomy, the safeguarding of life, and support for the suffering.

The CPCE said it hoped its common statement would stimulate debate on the issue of euthanasia among the CPCE's 105 member churches, as well as wider society.

The Specialist Group on Ethics expects to present the document to the CPCE Council when it meets in Oslo in January 2009.

The announcement of the consultation came as police in the UK continue their investigation into the death of a 23-year-old paralysed rugby player who travelled to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland last month to die.

The mother and father of Daniel James, who are believed to have been question by police, have defended their son's suicide on 12 September, saying he was "not prepared to live what he felt was a second-class existence".

The Government has launched an inquiry into assisted suicide, which remains illegal in the UK. The results of the inquiry are due to be published early 2009.