THE BLOG

Why Is It Only the Bishops Who Get a Say On Assisted Dying?

16/07/2014 14:02 BST | Updated 15/09/2014 10:59 BST

The House of Lords is soon to debate Lord Falconer's Bill to allow doctors, or someone else in the medical profession, to assist people to end their lives if they are likely to die within six months and choose to end their lives.

This is surely a topic that will effect most of us in some way at some point in our lives - whether because we end up in that position or a family member or a friend does. It must be one of the most anxiety provoking issues that face us all - the manner in which we end our lives.

You would think therefore that all manner of people would be engaged in the debate - but incredibly most of us - or most in the media - seem to want this debated only by Bishops and other religious people.

This has included Bishop Desmond Tutu who I am sure is a great and compassionate man - but he is not a UK resident and will not be subject to any decisions made on this issue. Of course the Vatican has weighed in against the idea - again I am not sure those living in the Vatican will be effected by decisions in the UK on assisted dying. But - hey - they are religious so they get a say.

Anyway I am not convinced that the Catholic Church - as an institution - has always acted in a kind and compassionate way for those weak and vulnerable in their care.

So it seems that anyone representing a religion - wherever they live - have their opinions expressed in the newspapers and on television in the UK and in such numbers as to suggest that only they can have a valid point of view.

I take the point that some have spoken in favour of the idea of assisted dying but a good many are against it and whatever their position - it is beside the point - what gives them the right to be the almost sole arbiters on this serious matter?

Unless all these religious people are also experts on medical matters or have other qualifications we are not aware of I cannot see why we should pay so much attention to their views.

Of course for many religious people - what this is all about is their claim that when we die is a matter for god (however they imagine god to be) - it is not up to us mere humans to decide when and how we die.

This is an odd position of course - since all of them would probably support medical efforts to delay some ones death - especially their own - but to help end someone is great pain to suffer less long is beyond the pale for them. If they are waiting for god's will on this matter they are free to avoid medical help when they become ill if they want but they should leave the rest of us to seek what help we can.

There are many arguments for and against assisted dying - we should hear more from the medical professionals since they will be expected to assist people in the way being argued.

Most of us would not leave a dog to die in agony and misery but some argue that we should not treat humans with the same care. Of course we must include strong safeguards to ensure that the patient is free to make up their own mind.

What is also striking is that the religious opinion seems to be about the slippery slope argument or about safeguards - which are valid points for us all to debate - but I think they stick to those arguments because many of us would reject their real reasons for wanting to extend suffering for as long as possible - religious dogma.

I support the idea of assisted dying but I recognise that it should be debated - but much more widely than it currently is. You don't have to have a religious title to hold a valid opinion on this - it will surely effect us all and we should all get a say.