Church of England and Roman Catholic bishops have joined forces to urge Parliament not to change the law on euthanasia, arguing that allowing assisted suicide would undermine the protection of vulnerable people. In a joint submission to the House of Lords Select Committee on the Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill, the Church of England House of Bishops and the Roman Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales describe the Bill as "misguided" and "unnecessary" and warn it would damage the relationship of trust between doctors and patients. The Select Committee was set up to consider a Private Member's Bill introduced by Lord Joffe. In its conclusion, the bishops' joint submission says: "It is deeply misguided to propose a law by which it would be legal for terminally ill people to be killed or assisted in suicide by those caring for them, even if there are safeguards to ensure it is only the terminally ill who would qualify. "To take this step would fundamentally undermine the basis of law and medicine and undermine the duty of the state to care for vulnerable people. It would risk a gradual erosion of values in which over time the cold calculation of costs of caring properly for the ill and the old would loom large. As a result many who are ill or dying would feel a burden to others. The right to die would become the duty to die." It adds: "The Bill is unnecessary. When death is imminent or inevitable there is at present no legal or moral obligation to give medical treatment that is futile or burdensome. It is both moral and legal now for necessary pain relief to be given even if it is likely that death will be hastened as a result. But that is not murder or assisted suicide. "What terminally ill people need is to be cared for, not to be killed. They need excellent palliative care including proper and effective regimes for pain relief. They need to be treated with the compassion and respect that this Bill would put gravely at risk." In a covering letter to the chairman of the Select Committee Lord Mackay, Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster, said: "We believe very strongly that respect for human life at all its stages is the foundation of a civilised society, and that the long term consequences of any change in the law to allow euthanasia in limited circumstances would be immensely grave. "This is a view shared not just within our Churches, but very widely among those of all faiths and none who share a moral outlook founded on respect for human life and the protection of vulnerable people." Source: CCS
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