Removing religious voices from ‘right to die’ debate

Removing religious voices from ‘right to die’ debate August 5, 2013

The Court of Appeal for England and Wales has upheld the blanket ban on euthanasia and assisted suicide, holding there is no “right to die” under British and European Community law. The court in Nicklinson & Anor, R (on the application of) v A Primary Care Trust [2013] EWCA Civ 961 held there was no legal, moral or social need to rethink Parliament’s prohibition on euthanasia.

However, if you turned to The Independent to find out what happened you might well be excused for thinking this was an exercise in unthinking, hard-hearted judicial tyranny. The article “Barbaric and inhumane: Paralysed man Paul Lamb hits back after judges dismiss his right-to-die appeal” is unbalanced and ill-informed. It may well be that The Independent wanted a news story to accompany an op-ed piece entitled “Comment: Case for assisted dying is overwhelming”, but I am hard pressed to tell which is news story and which is the special pleading of one of the parties.

The story opens with:

Britain’s right-to die laws are “barbaric and inhumane” a paralysed man said after three of the country’s most senior judges today rejected his appeal to be allowed assistance to help him end his own life.

Paul Lamb, 57, has spent the past 23 years receiving round-the-clock care following a car crash which left him with only a tiny degree of movement in his right arm. He said politicians were “scared to death” to bring the UK in line with other countries where assisted suicide was legal.

Having framed the story in terms of the feelings of one of the appellants the article states:

Mr Lamb said he had no plans to take his life at present. But he said: “I am doing this for myself as and when I need it. I’m doing it for thousands of other people living what can only be described as a hell. Many of them have been in touch with me begging me to continue this fight. The more it goes on the stronger I am getting,” he said.

This case tells us a great deal about the opinions of Paul Lamb and the British Humanist Association. It is not until the very last paragraph of the story that we hear the voice of someone who believes the court decidedly wisely. And we hear almost nothing as to what the court said and why it said it.

It was not as if the opinion lacked pull quotes. Paragraph 155 of the decision addresses the issues of judicial activism:

Parliament represents the conscience of the nation. Judges, however eminent, do not: our responsibility is to discover the relevant legal principles, and apply the law as we find it. We cannot suspend or dispense with primary legislation. In our constitutional arrangements such powers do not exist.

While paragraph 156 notes:

The legislation criminalising assisting suicide was recent and unequivocal; and even if it were constitutionally permissible (which it was not) for judges to intervene on the basis that Parliament had failed to address a desperately urgent social need, Parliament had not in fact done so in this particular case.

Facts and sober analysis are of secondary interest to the human interest story of Paul Lamb.  There is no balance, no nuance, no research, no context, no curiosity in this article. Nor is there any reference to the wider intellectual and theological debate taking place in Britain and across Europe on this issue.

I am not surprised, however, at this omission by The Independent. In an editorial printed last week on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s campaign to end predatory lending, the newspaper argued religion has no place in the public square.

The question is neither Archbishop Welby’s motivations nor his capabilities; as a former oil executive and a member of the mettlesome Commission on Banking Standards, he has both the background and the acuity to make an informed contribution. The question is whether he should do so.

For The Independent, even when we agree with him, the answer must be no. For all his fine qualities – many of which were on display in yesterday’s gracious, candid response to the Wonga embarrassment – Archbishop Welby is still the unelected leader of a minority institution which enjoys disproportionate influence on the basis of history alone. His efforts to reclaim the initiative and make the Church relevant again are understandable. But they are also erroneous.

This is no swipe at religion, but such matters are a private affair, and spiritual leaders – for all the authority they may have among their own – have no business in mainstream politics. That bishops still sit in the House of Lords is an anachronism that makes a mockery of British democracy. If Archbishop Welby wishes the Church of England to support credit unions, it is his prerogative to act accordingly, but there his legitimacy ends.

As an aside, the poor old CoE can’t seem to catch a break from the press.  When it questioned the policies of Margaret Thatcher conservative newspapers mouthed the same “religion is a private affair and has no place in politics” line. Now it is the left’s turn to take up the mantra.

The Independent has adopted an editorial line and carried it forward in its reporting that religion has no standing in the public square — that it is irrelevant to the life of the mind, to politics, to law and the social contract. Yet should not a newspaper report the whole of an issue, not merely those arguments and issues it finds congenial?

The result for journalism of this closed mind worldview can be seen in this article.

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  • DeaconJohnMBresnahan

    For a whole week in Brazil Pope Francis talked of many issues in the public square. But most of those times he was speaking broadly about economic justice for the poor and showing compassion in action toward the poor. For these there was little negative furor from the media. It seems that the media is only too happy to have the Church in the “public square” when what a Church leader says is what the media likes. But when the media doesn’t like what a Church leader says, then the strategy seems to be to turn the debate in another direction by attacking the Church and the right of religious communities to be part of the debate.

  • Dingo Dongo

    It’s not clear whether you’re condemning the worldview when it is to used to restrict journalism, or the worldview itself. Calling it “closed mind” comes uncomfortably close to the latter.

  • Paw Rex

    The Media’s relationship, with the Catholic Jesuit, Mystery, Clown. Pope Fran$issy …………. ?

    YOU READ Too much into the Affair.

    There is nothing here. !…… The MEdIA is waiting for a real story and this jOKER, Pimp, was only Rotten Fish – of Yesterdays Tide.

    The Fact is……The Media KNOWS that… You can NEVER, eXpect to get an Honest, Honest Answer, from the ROMAN POPE.

    Did You know that , Roman Catholics SHARE the Faith of …. Atheist FAITH ……..? ? ?

    Did You Know,,, that —–The FACTS Is / — ROMAN Catholics SHARE Atheist Ideas and FEELINGS.

    Roman Catholic, Are FULLY Supporting Many, Many ATHIEST Views.

    The CATHOLIC ENC (Vol. 10, page 184). Demands that “”” “The Bible as a literary work had traditions that included myth” CATHOLIC ENC (Vol. 10, page 184).

    The CATHOLIC ENC (Vol. 10, page 184).– “”””Some of the miracles recorded in Holy Scripture may be fictional and include imaginative literary exaggerations.

    The episode of Noe and the Ark is imaginative literary CATHOLIC ENC (Vol. 9, page 887).

    The Gospels are not biographies of Jesus and still less scientific history” (Vol. 12, page 403).

    From CHRISTIAN NEWS, 7/2/90… Excerpts from NEW JEROME BIBLE COMMENTARY (this has the Imprimatur of Lawrence Cardinal Shehan. Augustin Cardinal Bea is the author of the commentary’s forward).

    1. The Bible contains fiction.
    2. Moses did not write the first five books of the Bible. These books came from the J-E-D and P sources centuries after Moses died.

    3. The Bible does not predict the coming of the Messiah Jesus Christ.
    4. Joshua’s account of the destruction of Jericho is fiction.

    5. Isaiah did not write Chapters 40-66 of the Book of Isaiah.
    6. Isaiah did not predict the coming of Jesus Christ, that he would be born of a virgin , and suffer and die for the sins of all men.

    7. The Old Testament does not teach any resurrection from the dead. St. Jerome was wrong when he said Job 19:26 referred to Jesus and the resurrection.
    8. The Sixth century B.C. prophet Daniel did not write the Book of Daniel.

    9. The Book of Daniel contains errors and fiction.
    10. Psalm 16:10 does not refer to the resurrection of Christ.

    11. The Books of Ruth, Jonah and Esther are fiction.
    12. The Book of Matthew contains fiction.

    13. The Ascension of Christ may not be historical.
    14. Three thousand were not converted at Pentecost.

    15. Paul did not write Colossians, Ephesians, I and II Timothy and Titus.
    16. The Bible is not the inspired and inerrant Word of God.

    17. Genesis is not historical.
    18. Man and the universe gradually evolved from some primary substance.

    19. Christian doctrine gradually evolved. The Biblical view of God changed.
    20. The Bible contains mythology.

    21. The Biblical story of Noah’s flood is a myth.
    22. Man does not know who the historical Jesus really was.

    23. The Gospels are not true history.
    24. Jesus was not all knowing.

    25. Jesus did not co-exist with the Father from all eternity.

    Folks …. This is what the Translator of the VERY, VERY First Catholic bible Translation, believed.

    His name was JEROME. The Catholic Church Produced its VERY, VERY First Latin Bible Translation /—- nearly 500 years after jESUS.

    The Bible is NOT and NEVER was —- a very Important part- of Roman Catholicism….. They Dont Advertise the ORIGIONAL Translation because it has so many TRANSLATION Errors and Twisted Translated Verses.

    this FALSE Translation was made… nearly 500 years after jESUS !

    If the g0D of Athiests and the ATHEISTS Faith… was – Denial of the Scriptures and DENYING the Message and Completely , HONEST, DISTAIN for MOST parts of the Bible.

    You Could Say that Roman Catholics (* SERVE the Same eXact g0D as Atheists. ) Catholics–DO- Serve the g0D, of Atheists.

    Catholics Already Admit, that they Serve the SAME g0D of the Quran and of ISLAM. / — While their Pope Kisses His Quran.

    Mohammed is, Literally a Spiritual Father of the Roman Catholic Church and a Prophet of the Catholic Faith.

    They also Serve the g0D of Athiest….

    So when You see the Pope Making this STATEMENT or that STATEMENT… Y0U have to STOP and think about the FACTS.

    Catholics have jumped back and forth from one Side of the FENCE to the other for 2000 years. Changing and Deleting and Inventing their Faith to fill their Lust.

    The BIble Means NOTHING…. its jUST a Book – to HIjACK Characters and Ideas From..

    THE FACTS, tell You and answer All Your Questions. ******^^^^ And that is my only DESIRE.
    Please go to My WEBSITE and LEARN the FACTS … and KNOW that I only wish to REMAIN on topic. I love Catholics and Muslims and Atheists

    Click Here…..
    Ps…. The Media Will be Telling the Pope the Story…..
    The Pope has nothing to offer…..