Archbishop of Canterbury calls for protection of the elderly

 The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has given a sombre warning that a more permissive approach to euthanasia and assisted suicide in Britain could undermine fundamental commitments to the needs of the elderly. In a keynote speech given yesterday, on the challenges confronting an aging society, Dr Williams said: "The current drift towards a more accepting attitude to assisted suicide and euthanasia in some quarters gives me a great deal of concern. What begins as a compassionate desire to enable those who long for death because of protracted pain, distress or humiliation to have their wish can, with the best will in the world, help to foster an attitude that assumes resources spent on the elderly are a luxury." Dr Williams added: "Investment in palliative medicine, ensuring that access to the best palliative care is universally available, continuing research not only into the causes but into the behavioural varieties of dementia and so on - how secure would these be as priorities if there were any more general acceptance of the principle that it was legitimate to initiate a process designed to end someone's life?" In his speech to mark the centenary of the charity, Friends of the Elderly, Dr Williams made clear that he does not regard this potential erosion as the intention of proponents of change: "I am certainly not ascribing to the defenders of euthanasia or assisted dying any motive but the desire to spare people unnecessary suffering. But I think we have to ask the awkward question about how this might develop in a climate of anxiety about scarce resources." Dr Williams, who is Patron of the society, also examined the impact of advertising and marketing cultures on attitudes towards older people and argue that ageing has to be seen as a "a spiritual issue" in order to see more clearly and promote its positive role and dimensions: "Work, sex, the struggle to secure our position or status, the world in which we constantly negotiate our demands and prove ourselves fit to take part in public life - what is there outside all this that might restore some sense of a value that is just given, a place that doesn't have to be earned? A healthy attitude to the elderly, I believe, is one of the things that can liberate us from the slavery of what we take for granted as the 'real' world... Contempt for older citizens, the unthinking pushing of them to the edges of our common life, is a sure sign of a shrivelled view of what it is to be human." Source: ACN

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