We at CARE in Northern Ireland believe strongly that each and every person is uniquely and wonderfully made in the image of God.
So God created mankind in His own image…
Genesis 1:27 (NIV)
Every human life, having inherent dignity and intrinsic value, deserves to be protected from conception to the natural end of life. However, proposals to legalise assisted suicide threaten to undermine this dignity by creating an environment in which there is a very real risk that vulnerable people who believe they are a burden on family and society, will feel pressured into ending their lives.
Assisted suicide is illegal throughout the UK. Unlike England and Wales’ Suicide Act 1961, Northern Ireland does not have a specific statute on the issue. Instead, under section 13 of the Criminal Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 1966 it is a criminal offence to aid and abet suicide. Although assisted suicide has not been decriminalised, in 2010 the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland published guidelines determining which cases should be prosecuted. All cases must have the permission of the DPP for Northern Ireland before an individual is prosecuted.
Assisted Suicide is a matter of criminal justice and as such decisions pertaining to it are devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly. At present there are no proposals in the Assembly to legalise assisted suicide. In recent years, there have been a number of attempts in England, Scotland and Wales to change the law to allow for assisted suicide. Thankfully in 2015, Rob Marris MPs attempt to change the law for England and Wales in Westminster through a Private Members Bill was overwhelmingly defeated by 330 votes to 118. Of the 14 MPs from Northern Ireland who take their seats at Westminster, 13 of them voted against the measure while the other did not attend the debate. In Scotland, an attempt to change the law in 2015 was defeated by 86 votes to 36.
At CARE NI, we believe that the compassionate response to those suffering at the end of life is to care, not kill. We will continue to highlight the serious consequences legalising assisted suicide would have – in particular placing significant pressures on the vulnerable to end their lives prematurely – while also acknowledging, and encouraging, the continuing legacy of quality palliative care in Northern Ireland.
Questions for Candidates
- Do you oppose the legalisation of assisted suicide?
- Will you promise to protect the vulnerable and uphold human dignity by opposing any attempt to legalise assisted suicide in the next Assembly?
- Will you commit to a compassionate response by ensuring continued support for, and improvement of, palliative care provision in Northern Ireland?