Reading this - as usual - brilliant paper by Rowan Williams, "What is a Person? Reclaiming Relationality in an Uncooperative Age," is a timely link to a unique experience on Monday ... I was part of a presentation, led by Dean Lawrence Kimberley, to the Justice Select Committee on the Right To Choose euthanasia bill which is being considered by our Parliament. "Unique" means I have never been in front of a Select Committee before.
Anyway, the Committee was kind and heard our Diocese's voice, which was centred around the content of the speech Dean Lawrence made to our recent Synod when we agreed to a motion which asked our then Bishop, Victoria Matthews, to write to parliament stating our position and our concerns. (Some news reports about the role of our Diocese and Bishop in speaking against the proposed bill are here and here.)
But a news agency, Newsroom has spotted that our bishops are divided on the matter of whether people should be assisted to die or not. This is not unexpected - we do not have a specific doctrinal position on euthanasia which binds the bishops to a common teaching - and there are, of course, sentiments worth considering when considering how best to assist people towards imminent death in the midst of great pain. I support best possible palliative care but that does not mean I dismiss those who think there are some circumstance in which it is reasonable to move beyond assisting people towards inevitable death by actually assisting them to die.
Nevertheless, I am against assisting people to die. Two reasons are particularly significant for me.
First, once we breach the principle of respect for life, for extraordinary reasons (e.g. great pain), and become used to making decisions to assist people to die and then actually being part of the ending of life (killing?), it will be very easy to continue the breach for ordinary reasons (there are too many elderly people, this treatment for depression just isn't working, health resources are limited, if Grandma died we could pay off the mortgage with the inheritance). We will become a society with a cap on the length of life and guilt for living a long life will drive people to an early end.
Secondly, what ++Rowan says. If we believe we are persons and not individuals then we will take account of our families and friends before asserting the right to choose as an individual to do what we want with our lives. Their loss of us, their distress at our going should be important. They have a right, if we use the language of rights, to have a say in our choice. But these personalist considerations, I fear, for a bill being driven by the party leader of the party most insistent on the sovereignty of the individual, could be lost.