On the decision to allow a judicial review in the case of Diane Pretty - a woman with motor neurone disease - who is seeking that her husband be allowed to assist in her suicide with fear of prosecution.
1 September 2001
The Guild of Catholic doctors is critical of the High Court decision to allow a judicial review of the Director of Public Prosecution's position in relation to assisted suicide.
Suicide was decriminalised, not to give people a right to commit suicide, but because the reality is that those attempting suicide are either mentally ill or in a desperate need of help. The response to an attempted suicide should not be judicial punishment, but help and support. Assisting a suicide is not offering that help and should continue to be a criminal offence.
The Guild fully supports the Pope's words "In reality, what might seem logical and humane, when looked at more closely is seen to be senseless and inhumane...... In its deepest reality, suicide represents a rejection of God's absolute sovereignty over life and death..... Euthanasia must be called a false mercy. True 'compassion' leads to sharing another's pain; it does not kill the person whose suffering we cannot bear." (The encyclical Evangelium vitae paras 65 & 66)
It will be a tragic day for society if it is accepted that an individual's life is no longer worth living. Although death will come to us all - human life, regardless of the degree of disability, is of infinite value. The response to those who feel so desperate that they ask for help in ending their life must be to offer true compassion and support, and not to assist them in bringing about their death.
Inevitably if exceptions are made to the principle of the sanctity of life, the medical profession will be involved in issuing lethal prescriptions. Once doctors are given a legal right to bring about death they will become the most dangerous group in society. The reality is that where voluntary euthanasia / assisted suicide has been permitted, doctors also resort to euthanasia without the patient's request. Once it is accepted that a life is no longer worthwhile, it is inevitable that other disabled people will also be deemed to have lives devoid of value, and for those who are mentally incompetent others will make decisions to have their lives ended.
The Guild of Catholic Doctors would wish, with other medical bodies, to make representation to the full judicial review and urge the High Court to uphold the law on assisted suicide as it now stands.