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Church of England Supporting Euthanasia? [Commentary / Analysis]
The Waffling Anglican ^ | 11/11/2006 | Mike the Geek

Posted on 11/13/2006 5:17:51 PM PST by sionnsar

The following is from the London Times, and strikes me as being a bit unfair in its coverage.

The Church of England has joined one of Britain’s royal medical colleges in calling for legal euthanasia of seriously disabled newborn babies.

Church leaders want doctors to be given the right to withhold treatment from seriously disabled newborn babies in exceptional circumstances.

Wait a cotton-picking minute; this article is making a misleading statement. Withholding treatment is not the same thing as euthanasia. If someone is dying or hopelessly injured, my understanding is that there is no absolute obligation to provide more than palliative treatment. (Someone correct me if I am wrong.) Had Terri Schiavo been on a ventilator, it could have been turned off. The outcry was not that she was allowed to die naturally, but that she was killed by the deliberate withholding of food and water.
Their call, overriding the presumption that life should be preserved at any cost, follows that of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology, revealed in The Sunday Times last week.

The church’s position was laid out in a submission to an independent inquiry, due to publish its report this week, into the ethical concerns surrounding the treatment of severely premature babies.

In the submission Tom Butler, Bishop of Southwark, states: “It may in some circumstances be right to choose to withhold or withdraw treatment, knowing it will possibly, probably, or even certainly result in death.”

The withdrawal of the treatment, however, is not for the purpose of causing death. There is a moral difference between not keeping someone alive and killing someone that has been acknowledged by the Church for quite some time - especially considering that the ability to keep someone alive is a pretty recent phenomenon.
The church’s submission does not say which medical conditions might justify the decision to allow babies to die. It argues that there are “strong proportionate reasons” for “overriding the presupposition that life should be maintained”.

It says it would support the withdrawal of treatment only if all reasonable alternatives had been considered, “so that the possible lethal act would only be performed with manifest reluctance”.

That doesn't sound to me like a new position or like one that diverges from the position of Catholics, Orthodox, and most Protestants.
In its proposal the college of obstetricians argued that “active euthanasia” should be considered for the overall good of families, to spare parents the emotional burden and financial stress of caring for desperately sick infants.
And that is a very different matter from withholding treatment.
The college said in its submission to the inquiry: “A very disabled child can mean a disabled family. If life-shortening and deliberate interventions to kill infants were available, they might have an impact on obstetric decision-making, even preventing some late abortions, as some parents would be more confident about continuing a pregnancy and taking a risk on outcome.”

Both submissions were made to the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, an independent body that publishes guidelines for how the medical profession should deal with ethical questions such as euthanasia.

The council was set up nearly two years ago in order to consider the implications of advances that enable infants to be born half-way through pregnancy.

In the Netherlands babies born before 25 weeks are not given medical treatment in certain conditions.

The report, to be published on Thursday, is not expected to set an age limit as a criterion.

This whole thing is a follow-up to the suggestion that British doctors euthanise disabled babies (see previous post on this blog). I am not the obvious candidate to spring to the defense of the Bishops of the Church of England. They seem to have as many heretics per capita as the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Church in Canada. In this case, however, The Times seems to be putting words into their mouths.

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant; Moral Issues

1 posted on 11/13/2006 5:17:54 PM PST by sionnsar
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To: ahadams2; cf_river_rat; fgoodwin; secret garden; MountainMenace; SICSEMPERTYRANNUS; kaibabbob; ...
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2 posted on 11/13/2006 5:18:24 PM PST by sionnsar (?|Iran Azadi| 5yst3m 0wn3d - it's N0t Y0ur5 (SONY) | UN: Useless Nations)
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To: sionnsar
As I posted the other day, we should be thankful the Hensel twins were born here instead of Britain.
3 posted on 11/13/2006 5:22:29 PM PST by uglybiker (Don't look at me. I didn't make you stupid.)
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To: All
From comments on Stand Firm:

8 Comments • Print-friendlyPrint-friendly w/comments
Posted November 13, 2006 - 8:30 am

Please read the whole article.  My eyes bugged out at the headline, but this is really much closer to the issues facing older/terminally ill people who refuse extreme medical measures to preserve what would be minimal life functions.
The huge moral problem is that newborns cannot speak for themselves.  Parents normally take charge in such cases, but there are aggressive “medical boards” wanting in to judge, and their criteria are often questionable.
And “duty to die” does lurk in the shadows - “It is costing too much to keep your loved one alive.  You have a duty to the public good allow death.”
But do read the article - there are complex and worthy questions in these matters and the headline and some of the coverage is sensationalistic.

Posted by Timothy Fountain on 11-13-2006 at 07:53 AM [link]

It’s that “quality of life thing”. If a person costs too much, requires too much care, or is otherwise too much of an inconvenience, then they simply must be killed for the good of society. It is the logical next step for the “reproductive rights” movement. O Brave New World!

Posted by via orthodoxy on 11-13-2006 at 08:33 AM [link]

As someone who pours heart and soul into creating technology that lets the most severely disabled children do simple things such as tell their parents they love them, I am without words. It’s times like this I want to walk away from Anglicanism, and leave it to die the death it so often seems to deserve. I know I’m supposed to pray for Bishop Butler, but right now I’d much prefer that he rot in Hell. I guess it’ll be Monday all day.

Posted by Greg Griffith on 11-13-2006 at 08:56 AM [link]

Sensationalist and anti-church untruths that we’ve come to expect from the Mail. The report signed by +Butler states “that fetuses and newborns should only have treatment withheld or withdrawn if treatment is futile.” The full text is at

I can see no real departure from a thoroughly orthodox Christian understanding of end-of-life ethics in this report.

Posted by The Duke on 11-13-2006 at 08:57 AM [link]

There is a difference between “allowing to die” and actively killing a patient, especially if it is the patient’s rational choice.  For the demented and non-responsible children there is the problem of who decides.  Quality of life can be a euphamism for poor quality of life for those providing the care.  Once the government gets in on the act there is no solution.  The church has long since abandoned a prophetic ministry to guide in these complex problems.  When the bill is sent to some one else to pay, don’t be surprised what happens.  Like that old joke:"Pedro say, he no afraid to die.”

Posted by PROPHET MICAIAH on 11-13-2006 at 10:09 AM [link]

Ah, Matt: so it was the Church of England and not the Democratic National Committee!

Posted by Irenaeus on 11-13-2006 at 10:40 AM [link]

Both/and Ireneaus not either/or

Posted by Matt Kennedy on 11-13-2006 at 01:11 PM [link]

I think we need to tread very lightly, here. The headline of this post was inflammatory. When reading the text it sounded more as though there are times when interfering with God’s will might not be the wisest course.

Posted by john4woman on 11-13-2006 at 05:16 PM [link]

4 posted on 11/13/2006 5:23:10 PM PST by sionnsar (?|Iran Azadi| 5yst3m 0wn3d - it's N0t Y0ur5 (SONY) | UN: Useless Nations)
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To: uglybiker
As I posted the other day, we should be thankful the Hensel twins were born here instead of Britain.

OMG -- I never even heard of them! Thank you for the link, and I agree: thankful they were born here and at the time they were born. The Left would have killed euthanized them at birth, if not before.

5 posted on 11/13/2006 5:27:31 PM PST by sionnsar (?|Iran Azadi| 5yst3m 0wn3d - it's N0t Y0ur5 (SONY) | UN: Useless Nations)
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To: sionnsar

The problem is that the doctor makes the decision -- not the parents. It's the slippery slope.

6 posted on 11/14/2006 5:55:27 AM PST by WashingtonSource
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To: sionnsar

Are there any Biblical instructions that the weak should be left to die?

This whole issue seems to be a social position taken by the church, not a Biblical one. One has to wonder what guides them as a church.

7 posted on 11/14/2006 7:01:02 AM PST by Ironfocus
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