April 20, 2024

Some UK anglican clerics back euthanasia

In the midst of a public debate over a bill which would allow assisted suicide, prominent Anglican clergymen in Britain are voicing their support for euthanasia. One of the chief advisers to the Archbishop of Canterbury has told the Observer newspaper that there is a very strong compassionate case for voluntary euthanasia". Canon Professor Robin Gill even goes so far as to contend that "in certain cases… there is an overwhelming case for it". Last week Archbishop Rowan Williams sent Professor Gill to testify before a parliamentary committee on euthanasia, a move instantly interpreted by the Voluntary Euthanasia Society as a signal that the Anglican Church in the UK is prepared to soften its opposition.

Professor Gill is well known in church circles for his view that clerics are out of touch with mainstream public opinion on euthanasia. However a spokesman for the Church of England told the Telegraph newspaper that his opinions did not reflect those of anyone else in the church.

This seems to understate Anglican interest in voluntary euthanasia. A letter in the Telegraph earlier in the month signed by the Reverend Professor Paul Badham and five other progressive clerics, four of them Anglicans, argued that euthanasia could be compassionate and that the proposed bill should not be opposed in principle. Curiously, they cited the Netherlands as "a deeply Christian country [which] has found… that the reality of dying for a small proportion of the terminally ill can require a deeper understanding of compassion than is countenanced by the continuation of their suffering under current law."