Very often, proponents of assisted suicide try to caricature opposition to their proposals as being a matter of ‘religious’ people trying to ‘impose’ their values and beliefs on the rest of society.
The fact of the matter is that this is at best a red herring, and at worst a dishonest slur. Many of the leading campaigners in the British Isles against assisted suicide are not remotely religious, and the case against assisted suicide is not based on religious teaching, but on public safety and human rights.
Of the most important public opponents of assisted suicide in the British Isles, few if any have a religious background:
- Baroness Finlay of Llandaff is one of the UK’s leading palliative care specialists, and a former head of the British Medical Association (BMA). She is non-religious.
- Lord Carlile of Berriew is an important lawyer and legal scholar, and is agnostic.
- Baroness Campbell of Surbiton is a veteran disability rights lawyer, and an atheist, and the same is true of Liz Carr, the Silent Witness actress and leader of Not Dead Yet UK.
- Kevin Yuill is author of Assisted Suicide: The Liberal, Humanist Case Against Legalisation. As his book title suggests, he is an atheist.
This is because the case against assisted suicide is not derived from ‘religion’, but reason and evidence, particularly considering the effects of assisted suicide on groups of vulnerable people, whether it be people with physical and mental disabilities, the elderly, those with physically or mental illness, or others whose situation may put them in danger of abuse.
Whilst a number of people who oppose assisted suicide are religious, they are motivated by concern for how it will affect constituencies of people whom their faith tradition compels them to want to help. This no more makes opposition to assisted suicide ‘religious’ than it made opposition to slavery (led by Christian campaigners, such as William Wilberforce and the ‘Clapham Sect’) a ‘religious’ campaign.
Believers and non-believers can both oppose assisted suicide on humane grounds. Anyone who doubts or denies this only expresses their own prejudice.