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Is Britain Christian?

Jonathan Maitland travels the UK to ask whether we should accept that Christianity needs to take a back seat in a modern secular society.

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Welby: Assisted dying plans 'mistaken and dangerous'

The current Archbishop of Canterbury has spoken out against the "mistaken and dangerous" bill that could soon legalise assisted dying.

Archbishop Welby's comments are at odds with one of his predecessors.
Archbishop Welby's comments are at odds with one of his predecessors. Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Writing in the Times (behind paywall), Most Rev Justin Welby said the Assisted Dying Bill - due to be debated in the House of Lords - would leave a "sword of Damocles" hanging over the heads of elderly people if it passed into law.

The Archbishop said a GCSE religious education examiner would "take a dim view" of the arguments supporting the bill, and added that any new law could leave vulnerable people at risk.

“Abuse, coercion and intimidation can be slow instruments in the hands of the unscrupulous, creating pressure on vulnerable people who are encouraged to ‘do the decent thing,” he said.

Read: Former Archbishop of Canterbury backs right-to-die

Right-to-die would be signed off by two doctors

If assisted dying was legalised in Britain it would have to be signed off by two doctors, a Bill set to be debated in the House of Lords next week proposes.

The Bill, drawn up by former Labour Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer, would mean patients were able to administer a fatal dose of drugs to themselves but they would not be able to receive help if they could not lift or swallow it.

The British Medical Journal published an editorial earlier this month backing the Falconer Bill.

But the British Medical Association (BMA) said its policy does not support a change in the law in assisted dying.

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Tony Nicklinson's widow says he would have been 'really pleased'

Jane Nicklinson with daughter Lauren. The family have pledged to carry on Tony's right-to-die fight.
Jane Nicklinson with daughter Lauren. The family have pledged to carry on Tony's right-to-die fight. Credit: PA

The widow of locked-in syndrome sufferer Tony Nicklinson, who tirelessly campaigned to have the right to end his life, has said he would be 'really pleased' the former Archbishop of Canterbury's is backing laws to legalise assisted dying.

Jane Nickinson lost Tony two years ago but said she was 'amazed and thrilled' at Lord Carey's U-turn on the issue.

She told BBC 5 live's Stephen Nolan: "This is huge because the Church has always been one of our greatest opponents.

"I think Tony moved a lot of people but to hear he moved someone in such a prominent position - someone who is willing to come out and openly support our position - I'm just over the moon about it.

"I'm really pleased and I know Tony would be as well."

Mrs Nicklinson and paralysed former builder Paul Lamb lost a right-to-die fight in the UK's highest court last month, but said they were hopeful that change would come.

Case of Tony Nicklinson changed Lord Carey's mind

Tony Nicklinson was paralysed in 2005 after suffering a stroke.
Tony Nicklinson was paralysed in 2005 after suffering a stroke. Credit: PA

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey has said he changed his views on assisted dying after being inspired by the case of locked-in syndrome sufferer Tony Nicklinson.

Mr Nicklinson battled for seven years to have the right to end his own life but it was refused and he died naturally aged 58 in 2012.

Writing in the Daily Mail, Lord Carey said: "It was the case of Tony Nicklinson that exerted the deepest influence on me,"

"Here was a dignified man making a simple appeal for mercy, begging that the law allow him to die in peace, supported by his family.

"His distress made me question my motives in previous debates. Had I been putting doctrine before compassion, dogma before human dignity?"

Legalising assisted dying 'mistaken and dangerous'

Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby.
Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby. Credit: PA

The current Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, has said the Bill to be debated in the House of Lord legalising assisted dying would be 'mistaken and dangerous.'

His comments came after his predecessor Lord Carey changed his long-standing views on the subject and spoke out in support of it.

Writing in the Times, Archbishop Welby said he understood how seeing a loved one suffer prompted the desire to "do almost anything" to alleviate their suffering.

He cited the agony he suffered seeing his own seven-month-old daughter Johanna, who was fatally injured in a car crash in France, die in 1983.

But he warned that the "deep personal demands" of one situation should not blind people to the needs of others, including more than a half a million elderly people who are estimated to be abused every year in the UK.

'It would not be anti-Christian to change the law'

The former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey.
The former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey. Credit: PA

The former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey has broken free with the Church of England's stance on assisted dying and said it would not be 'anti-Christian' to legalise it.

Writing in the Daily Mail, he said he would be backing legislation tabled by Lord Falconer which proposes allowing doctors to prescribe a lethal dose to terminally ill patients with less than six months to live.

He warned that by opposing reform the Church risked 'promoting anguish and pain.'

It marks an extraordinary U-turn by the 78-year-old cleric, who was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1991 to 2002.

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