CANTERBURY, England (RNS) Three leading Anglicans have entered an explosive debate about whether it is permissible for Christians to allow doctors in England and Wales to administer lethal doses of drugs to terminally ill patients given less than six months to live.

More than 100 members of the House of Lords, England’s upper house of Parliament, have asked to speak on the second reading of the Assisted Dying Bill on Friday (July 18).

The bill will be opposed by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who is expected to reaffirm the Church of England’s traditional hostility to any move that would endanger the Christian principle of the sanctity of human life.

Former Archbishop George Carey publicly voiced his support for assisted suicide ahead of a British Parliament debate about the issue on July 18, 2014.

Former Archbishop George Carey publicly voiced his support for assisted suicide ahead of a British Parliament debate about the issue on July 18, 2014.RNS photo courtesy George Carey

But former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, who unexpectedly intervened saying it would not be “anti-Christian” to believe that terminally ill people should be allowed to die with dignity, supports the new bill.

In a short article in the July 11 edition of the Daily Mail, he said,  “The fact is that I have changed my mind. The old philosophical certainties have collapsed in the face of the reality of needless suffering.”

That’s a viewpoint echoed by South Africa’s Nobel Prize-winning Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

In an article published Sunday in The Observer, Tutu said: “I revere the sanctity of life but not at any cost.”

South Africa’s Nobel Prize-winning Archbishop Desmond Tutu in July 2014 said he supported assisted suicide.

South Africa’s Nobel Prize-winning Archbishop Desmond Tutu in July 2014 said he supported assisted suicide.Creative Commons image by Joshua Wanyama

Tutu said it had been “disgraceful” that former South African President Nelson Mandela had not been allowed to die peacefully at the age of 95.

He added: “I have been fortunate to spend my life working for the dignity of the living. Now I wish to apply my mind to the issue of dignity for the dying.”

One of the few non-Christian religious leaders to enter the debate before Friday’s second reading of the bill is Rabbi Jonathan Romain of Inter-Faith Leaders for Dignity in Dying.

Speaking on behalf of 60 religious leaders, he said Carey’s intervention was a breath of fresh air, adding, “I see no sanctity in suffering, nothing holy about agony.”



  1. Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Whatever became of that Church of England that claimed to be part of the Catholic Church Universal??? There was a time that much of the Church of England prided itself on its being at one with both the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches in their rootedness in Apostolic Tradition.
    Now, the Church of England looks more and more like an idol worshipper of secular culture. The real suicide going on is that of Western Civilization as Islam becomes the strong religion of choice for many as the West embraces death (abortion,etc.) and sterile marriage.

  2. The proposed bill is a disaster. The terminally ill have no right to slip away peacefully in a morphine haze. God wants them to suffer in prolonged agony until He calls them home, and the state’s role is to fulfill God’s will. Enough of this secular nonsense! What about God’s rights?

    I’ll tell you one thing: these heathens might think they are winning by taking the easy way out and skipping past the portion of misery God Almighty has allotted them, but they’ll be in for a rude awakening when they emerge from the morphine dope-state and find that their new surroundings are a bit TOO HOT FOR COMFORT!!!!!

    • @ Ronald,

      Two points to make:

      1) If you think you deserve so much pain just because YOUR god wants it that way, it is absolutely within your right to die painfully and horribly. I have no problem with your choice. But why should I give rat’s ass about what YOUR god wants of me when MY compassionate god, Flying Spaghetti Monster, has no desire for his creatures to suffer from such unnecessary pain? It should be also within my right to die peacefully and with dignity. It is none of your or your god’s business.

      2) Let’s just say it’s true that it is YOUR god’s divine plan that you should suffer. Why in the world would you worship such a sadistic and monstrous god? You might want to consider shopping for more merciful and compassionate brand of god(s), unless you are an incurable masochist.

  3. I find it amusing all these holier than thou conservatives defending their anti-euthanasia position by saying it’s a sin and murder yet they worship Jesus who willingly committed suicide on the cross.

  4. This is a difficult and complex issue especially for any thoughtful Christian. the Bible is certainly not crystal clear on this. And it certainly can’t be justified by simply saying it has always been done that way in the church, hence Christian tradition.

    As a Christian, one of my fears is that it might weaken the will of others (as in the cluster of teen suicides) so that our entire society may eventually find all suicide more acceptable. Of course that will take time… But that is my fear.

    Having said that I am unable to take a strong stand either way though I am inclined toward assisted suicide FOR THE TERMINALLY ILL. but I have also met people given six months to live that lived much longer… Sometimes even years longer.

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