Churches Open Letter to Islanders
Churches in Guernsey have written an open letter to Islanders stating their opposition to Assisted Suicide. The letter was published in the Guernsey Press on Monday 16th April. Here is the full text of the letter and the signatories.
16th April 2018
Assisted dying: A Life and Death Issue
We are taking the exceptional step of writing to the people of Guernsey as Church leaders across a wide community of Christian witness. Our concern is the proposal in the Requête now laid before the States of Guernsey to be debated on 16th May to agree in principle to permit assisted dying.
As ministers, priests and pastors we are often closely involved in supporting and caring for those in the latter stages of life and their close family and friends. We welcome the attention and concern for this stage in life’s journey.
However we believe the proposal to introduce a legal provision for assisted dying to be misplaced and indeed a danger for us as a community, particularly for the most vulnerable in our Island.
“Choice” is used to justify this major change. However whilst “choice” is important, it cannot be the primary argument for life and death issues. Deeper ethical and moral considerations should have much greater weight in matters of Island policy and law. Individual “choice” is not an isolated event. We do not make choices in isolation from other people and society’s expectations.
Our decisions can also be influenced by profound life changing events. A first reaction to news of a life-changing event such as dementia or a life limiting illness can be to see this dramatic change in circumstances as the “end of life”. However with love and support, the final stages can also have fulfilment and purpose.
Mental health conditions like depression can also cause similar feelings to arise. To journey through these “dark times” in life we may require medical care and certainly the support of those who love us.
To assist in the death of another is essentially to assist in their suicide. A “choice” by the State to introduce assisted dying will change our Island and will be seen as a threat by people living with various disabilities, vulnerable people and ultimately, perhaps, by all of us, as we approach the end of our lives or journey with those we love at that final stage.
Christians like other people of faith, believe in the intrinsic value of life. Every life is a gift that is precious and worthy of defence. Living life in all its fullness will include darker times, pain and sorrow. This is part of the rich diversity and tapestry of life that also provides opportunities for care, generosity, kindness and selfless love.
We believe the States of Guernsey should focus on the care of vulnerable people, support the Les Bourgs hospice, increase mental health provision and care well for those with age related dementia. As a community we need to celebrate and support all of life and not actively seek to terminate life.
We fully support the care that our wonderful nurses, doctors, specialists and those in the caring professions provide on the Island. We understand the serious concerns raised by the Guernsey and Alderney division of the British Medical Association regarding the impact of assisted dying on medical practitioners in the Bailiwick. We fear it could fundamentally change the patient / doctor relationship; threatening the trust that issuing life ending prescriptions will bring.
Of the few other jurisdictions that have introduced assisted dying most have, over time seen the initial safeguards eroded and criteria broadened to include other conditions beyond terminally ill people. Current law protects the life of everyone and we are concerned that Guernsey could become an experiment in social change affecting all Islanders with implications well beyond our shores.
We are asking the people of Guernsey to consider the profound change that assisted dying would introduce. Our hope and prayer is that the Requête is rejected by the States.
This is a life and death issue so please contact your deputies with your views, doing so with the care and compassion that sustains our Island community.
The Very Rev’d Tim Barker, Dean of Guernsey, Rector St. Andrews and on behalf of all Church of England churches in the Bailiwick of Guernsey; Anthony Barnes (Warden); The Rev’d Matthew Barrett; Rev’d Richard Bellinger; Pastor Tim Berry; Rev’d Mark Charmley; Rev’d Claire Claxton; Rev’d Alistair Cumming; Rev’d Karen Dack; Rev’d Stephen Dallin; Rev’d Dr Adrian Datta; William George de Lacey Luff M.B.E. (Warden); Anne Diamond; Rev’d Paul Dzwig; Paul Fairclough (Warden); Rev’d Jonathan Findlay; Rev’d Dr Eric Gaudion; Rev’d Penny Graysmith (Chaplain PEH); The Rev’d Peter Graysmith; Rev’d Matthew Gregor; Colin Guilbert (Warden); Douglas Guilbert (Senior Deacon); The Very Rev’d John A Guille; Stephen J Hanbury (Warden); Pastor Steve Henry; Roy Herring; Major Claire Hill; Major Jamie Hill; Rev’d Dr David Hinchliffe, Superintendent Minister, Bailiwick of Guernsey Methodist Circuit; Jon Honour; Very Rev’d Canon Michael Hore; Jane Kewell (Ministry Co-ordinator); Rev’d David Knight; Rev’d Janet Le Billon; Pastor Don Le Flock; Rev’d Karen Le Mouton; Brian Le Prevost; Pastor Heather Leggett; Rev’d Mick Leggett; Pastor Graham Miller; Nathan Miller (Lead Pastor); Fr John Moore, Vice-Dean and Vicar; Pastor John Ogier; Rev’d Juliette Robilliard; Rev’d John Roddis; Anne Shakerley; Rev’d Mark Street; Deacon Sian Street; Rev’d Howard J Stringer; Fr Stuart Tanswell; Rev’d Linda Le Vasseur (Lead Chaplain PEH); Pastor Bryan Vidamour; Christopher Graham Workman (Warden)
St Peter Port – Church of Scotland; Eldad Elim Church; Notre Dame du Rosaire, Roman Catholic Church; Spurgeon Baptist Church; St Joseph and St Mary’s, Roman Catholic Church; St Stephen’s Church; TheLove Church; Wesley Methodist Church;
Castel – Cobo Mission Hall; Delisles Methodist Church; Fort Christian Centre; Sainte Marie du Castel Parish Church; St Matthews Church; Vazon Elim Church;
Forest – Bethesda Baptist Church; Forest Methodist Church;
St Andrew – Deaf Christian Fellowship; La Villiaze Evangelical Congregational Church; Rohais Methodist Church; St Andrew’s Parish Church;
St Martin – Les Camps Methodist Church; St Martin’s Parish Church;
St Pierre du Bois – Les Adams Methodist Church; Parish Church of St Pierre du Bois;
St Sampson – Church on the Rock; Delancey Elim Church; Our Lady Star of the Sea, Roman Catholic Church;
St Saviour – Emmanuel Baptist Church; New Life Church; St Saviours Church; United Reformed Church;
Torteval – Torteval Methodist Church; Torteval Parish Church;
Vale – Shiloh Church; St Michel du Valle; The Salvation Army; Vale Mission Hall;
Alderney – St Anne’s Church; St Anne and St Mary Magdalen, Roman Catholic Church;
Sark – Sark Ecumenical Partnership: Sark Methodist Church and St Peter’s Anglican Church.