Assisted suicide risks a slippery slope


I read with interest the piece on assisted suicide and the ethical and moral divisions it raises (Morning view – April 29). It makes a vital point and the whole question of euthanasia undoubtedly is one of the big dilemmas of our time.

However, I think the piece presented a somewhat reductionist view of Christian opposition to assisted suicide. To summarise Christians’ opposition to assisted suicide as simply being because of a belief that it is God who decides when we die fails to represent the holistic nature of concerns Christians have.

The real heart of our opposition to the legislation of assisted suicide is a belief that human life has an inherent dignity to it. The preciousness of life is not determined solely by the quality of an individual’s life, but rather stems from the fact every life is precious, independent of personal circumstances. This is a core part of a Christian worldview, which seeks to uphold the dignity of life and act responsibly to sustain life, rather than seeking ways to end it prematurely.

Moreover, and crucially our opposition flows not just from a point of principle but also from concerns about the ramifications of assisted suicide. If introduced, some of the most vulnerable in our society may find themselves under enormous pressure.

In 2013 61 per cent of people seeking assisted suicide in the state of Washington said that being a burden was one of their motivations for wanting to end their lives. It also represents a change in the doctor-patient relationship. Doctors would suddenly find themselves in a position not only to do their utmost to help people live, but paradoxically to also furnish someone with lethal drugs to help them die. Assisted suicide would become just another “treatment” offer.

It is no surprise a significant number of disability groups oppose the legislation. For all the attempts by euthanasia campaigners to talk about safeguards, you cannot ignore or avoid the danger of a slippery slope.

True compassion always looks to care and never to kill. Legalising assisted suicide would have deeply serious consequences for some of the most vulnerable in our society.

Our focus and aim must be to help people to live, not to provide them with a way to die. Introducing assisted suicide would be a retreat from our heritage as a compassionate and caring nation where people recognise they have a duty to care for others in society.

Mark Baillie

CARE, Belfast