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Cardinal on Joffe Bill: 'the right to die can become a duty to die'

posted on 09 October 2005
Transcript of interview with Cardinal Cormac Murphy-OíConnor on Sunday AM programme (BBC One, Sunday, 9am-10am) relating to Assisted Dying Bill which is being debated this afternoon in the House of Lords.

(Andrew Marr) Can I ask about another issue, which is absolutely relevant as itís coming up in House of Lords tomorrow, which is the Assisted Dying Bill and euthanasia. Now, the Catholic Church, indeed like the Anglican Church, is strongly hostile to this Bill. Might seem a strange word to use but is it not, in the end, actually impertinent for a church, Catholic or otherwise, to say to individuals, who may have different faith or no faith, that you may or may not do this or that at the matter of your own dying, the matter of your own death. Is that not an intensely personal thing which should be left to the individual and not to churches?

(Cardinal) Itís not only a personal thing, itís a common thing and I think the Churches have a right to say what they deeply believe regarding the sanctity of life and also regarding the consequences of particular actions. With regard to assisted dying and this Bill of Lord Joffe, first of all Iíd say, with the growth of hospices, which care for the dying, and Iíve been to many, thereís no doubt that there are now ways of palliative care that we didnít have before and therefore that great moment, or moments, or time of going to the next life, of dying is a very important moment and time in a personís life --

Can I just stop you there for a second? It is an important moment, but I know people who would very much want the right to decide in dignity how and when they went. Is it really right for any outside body, including the church to tell them they canít?

Well I think the church in fact should help the law. If this law is passed, it seems to me the duty of the law to act of behalf of the people would be broken. Because the law is there to protect life. And you know the right to die can become a duty to die. We have in Holland numbers of people who are now put to death and babies Ė

Because theyíre under pressure from their family

And also babies who are born, who are disabled, I am told are also going to be killed.

Any liberty can be abused, every liberty, including the right to free speech can be abused. Is this not still a choice and liberty individuals which should be allowed to exercise?

I donít think so.

We live so much longer these days and death can be so much more difficult as a result.

Yes, I can understand that. And I understand very sad cases. But hard cases donít make good laws and I think that the whole trust between a doctor and his or her patient is at stake here. My father was a doctor, my brother is a doctor. I think this is intensely important and therefore I would be totally against this law, not simply but I also have sympathy for the law which protects life and if that goes I think a moral rubicon will be passed in this country which we would live to regret.

There is quite a big alliance against this Bill as well as in favour of it, but your instinct is going to be defeated or not?

I think it will be defeated in the House of Lords. I sincerely hope so.
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posted on 09 October 2005

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