'Dogma should never trump compassion'

16 May, 2022

Lord George Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, has written an open letter to NSW MPs urging them to back the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021.

Lord George CareyLord Carey penned the letter ahead of the resumption of debate on the private member's bill in the NSW Upper House this week.

In the open letter, Lord Carey says it is not his intention to "interfere in a matter that properly belongs to Australian citizens, but I write as a former Archbishop of Canterbury who has had a radical change of heart on assisted dying.

"I urge you not to consider the religious view to be settled on this matter and that all Christian and religious leaders speak with one mind.

"It is often thought that this is simply a sanctity of life matter on which most Christians agree. Yet there is a considerable gulf between the leadership of churches and the views of many in the congregations.

"Many ordinary Christians have experience of loved ones who have suffered from intractable and untreatable pain and suffering. They know that advances in medicine, which have greatly lengthened life, have also led to many instances of prolonged, painful and unhappy deaths.

"I have to question therefore why so many religious leaders reject the concept of a ‘good death’, by which those who are certainly at the end of life as a result of terminal illness are assisted to die well rather than in terrible prolonged pain and indignity."

In an interview with The Australian newspaper, Lord Carey addressed the issue of whether aged care facilities run by the Catholic and Anglican churches should be allowed to block access to assisted dying for residents in their care. 

Lord Carey said any such attempt would be “cruel, ­monstrous, unethical and un-Christian”.

“No care home should take such control of a mature, rational person in full command of his or her faculties that the person’s rights are taken away”.

"Dogma should never trump compassion," he said.

The unprecedented intervention by the former archbishop came as MPs opposed to the law are preparing to introduce amendments to slow the passage of the legislation, after the Upper House voted last week to support the second reading of the bill by 20 to 17.

Lord Carey urged MPs to get behind the refrom in NSW saying he believed legal voluntary assisted dying "will lead to much more open dialogue about death, and treatment of symptoms at the end of life - among patients, their physicians and families. It will lead to better conversations, better treatment and more openness and honesty."

Read Lord Carey's interview in The Australian

Read his open letter to NSW MPs below:

 

15 May 2022

Rt. Rev and Rt. Hon Lord Carey of Clifton

An Open Letter from Lord George Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, to members of the NSW Parliament

Dear Members of the NSW Parliament,

It is not my intention to interfere in a matter that properly belongs to Australian citizens, but I write as a former Archbishop of Canterbury who has had a radical change of heart on assisted dying.

I urge you not to consider the religious view to be settled on this matter and that all Christian and religious leaders speak with one mind. It is often thought that this is simply a sanctity of life matter on which most Christians agree. Yet there is a considerable gulf between the leadership of churches and the views of many in the congregations.

Many ordinary Christians have experience of loved ones who have suffered from intractable and untreatable pain and suffering. They know that advances in medicine, which have greatly lengthened life, have also led to many instances of prolonged, painful and unhappy deaths. In the UK the current laws are not working, resulting in people appealing to Dignitas in Zurich to help them seek a tranquil end to their lives.

I have to question therefore why so many religious leaders reject the concept of a ‘good death’, by which those who are certainly at the end of life as a result of terminal illness are assisted to die well rather than in terrible prolonged pain and indignity.

It is said that this will be the slippery slope but to that I say, we must trust you as lawmakers to ensure that the law is written in such a way as it cannot be abused and misused. Compassion for those seeking a peaceful end and strong laws are not in competition.

And we are told that this will change the relationship between doctors and patients. I disagree. I think it will lead to much more open dialogue about death, and treatment of symptoms at the end of life - among patients, their physicians and families. It will lead to better conversations, better treatment and more openness and honesty. 

Finally, it is often said by religious leaders that the answer to the problem of intractable pain which they know is a real issue is to have the best palliative care. I’ve always been a great supporter of the hospice movement, but I have talked to pain specialists and learned that even the best palliative care cannot deal with many instances of pain and suffering. Christian believers should not fear death and should not cling to it at any cost. We know that it is not the end.

I urge you to please support both better palliative care and also assisted dying for terminally-ill Australian citizens. 

With warm regards,

 

  

 

 

 

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