Dianne Pretty case: church response

 Life groups have welcomed the judgment by the European Court of Human Rights not to allow a terminally-ill woman to be killed by her husband. Archbishop Peter Smith, Catholic Archbishop of Cardiff, who chairs the department for Christian Responsibility and citizenship of the Bishops Conference said: "No one can fail to be moved by the suffering of Dianne Pretty. Motor Neurone Disease is a terrible terminal illness. Mrs Pretty's case before the European Court of Human Rights presented the fullest range of argument in support of her claim that her husband should be allowed to assist her to commit suicide without facing the risk of prosecution. In rejecting that claim, the European Court of Human Rights - whilst clearly deeply sympathetic to her suffering as an individual - firmly upheld the sanctity of human life. The right to life cannot, without a distortion of language, be interpreted as conferring the diametrically opposite right, namely a right to die. Nor can it create a right to self-determination in the sense of conferring on an individual the entitlement to choose death rather than life. Similarly, the Court clearly accepted that the right to be protected from inhuman or degrading treatment cannot be used to require a State to endorse actions intended to terminate life. "Quality of life is important. The need to protect the inherently vulnerable class of terminally ill persons nevertheless provides justification for the prohibition against euthanasia and assisted suicide which exists, amongst other things, to protect the weak and vulnerable members of society. We are duty bound to alleviate suffering, but it is always wrong intentionally to kill innocent human beings. With the continuing development of good quality palliative care, much can be done to alleviate such suffering and help maintain the dignity of those who are afflicted with terminal illness. Such care is the appropriate and compassionate response to persons in Mrs Pretty's position." Archbishop Smith gave a written submission to the House of Lords and the European Court of Human rights (ECHR). The full text of his submission to the ECHR is available at: www.catholic-ew.org.uk source: SPUC/CMS

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