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Not only must we recognise another person's suffering but actively do what we ' can to alleviate it Rev Dr John Breadon; As the Lords rejects the latest voluntary euthanasia legislation, Rev Dr John Breadon, a priest in the Diocese of Birmingham, explains why he is supporting the Bill.

Byline: Sarah Evans

Yesterday Lord Joffe's Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill 2005 was debated in the House of Lords. It was defeated - again.

But perhaps this is how we get to the truth of things: step by step, reading by reading, debate by debate, as we wait for the opinion of the country to shift decisively one way or the other.

The strange thing is that numerous polls and surveys suggest that the British public is already of the mind that the time is right to allow a competent adult who is suffering unbearably (as a result of a terminal illness) to access assisted dying. Whilst many folk maintain an open mind on this incredibly important issue, it is suggested that one group in particular remain unified in their opposition to it: 'people of faith'. But on this issue faith communities speak with many voices, not one.

I am a Christian priest and I support Lord Joffe's bill. Let me briefly explain why.

At the very heart of my faith is a risk-taking, adventurous God. I believe God created us to live likewise. So, for me, we humans are at our best when we tackle life with our capacity for love, creativity, and compassion to the fore. Not much good comes from living mainly by the dim light of our fears and anxieties. The spirit of this approach can be summed up by Jesus' words 'I have come in order that you might have life - life in all its fullness'. These principles - amongst others - have guided my thinking about assisted suicide.

My core principle is this: it is not for anyone other than the individual to decide what a 'full' life means for them. Individual freedom to determine our own road through life is sacrosanct in so many areas of our Western life today - so why not in death? Only through hard-won freedom can we become the real and authentic souls that God would have us become. Alongside freedom lies compassion. It is heartbreaking for me (I cannot imagine what it must be like for the families) to read the stories of those who have made long and exhausting journeys to end their lives with dignity and in peace on mainland Europe because they cannot do so in Britain.

The result of this is that people are robbed of weeks and months of precious time with their loved ones. But we cannot be heartbroken from a distance. Compassion is costly - it demands a great deal from us. What this means is that not only must we recognise another person's suffering but actively do what we can to alleviate it. For me this means joining and supporting groups like Dignity in Dying.

Nothing in the present bill sanctions full euthanasia or suggests that anyone with a terminal illness should regard themselves as a burden on their family or society. (I recommend that when you read 'slippery-slope' in the counter-arguments you try replacing it with 'smokescreen'.) It is my belief that Lord Joffe's bill is, in fact, a most timely piece of humane and thoughtful thinking. As medical science grows daily in knowledge and scope the issues surrounding the right time to die will become ever more urgent.

Personally, I hope to leave this world with St Ambrose's words on my lips: "Grant to life's day, a calm unclouded ending/An eve untouched by shadows of decay." You may disagree. But I hope we all agree that individual freedom and choice matter deeply not only during life but also at its end.

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The British public is already of the mind that the time is right to allow a competent adult who is suffering unbearably (as a result of a terminal illness) to access assisted dying Picture, JEREMY PARDOE
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:May 13, 2006
Words:630
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