In a strongly-worded pastoral letter, the bishop called on Catholics to 'mobilise' and 'speak out'

The Bishop of Portsmouth is urging people living on the island Guernsey to resist an attempt to allow assisted suicide.

In a letter due to be read out loud in Guernsey parishes on March 25, Bishop Philip Egan said he wished to appeal to all people of goodwill “to overturn this grim proposal.”

“Let there be no death clinics in Guernsey,” Bishop Egan said. “I appeal to Catholics to mobilise. Speak out against this proposal. It is never permissible to do good by an evil means.”

The bill scheduled to be considered by legislators in May is “fundamentally subversive, horrific and dangerous, however well-intentioned,” he said in his letter, which he emailed to Catholic News Service on March 23.

“It would be an intolerable and utterly immoral demand to ask medical staff, doctors and nurses, dedicated to preserving life, to extinguish the life of another human person,” said Bishop Egan.

“Assisting someone to die prematurely or assisting someone to commit suicide, even when they earnestly request it, can never ever be a compassionate action,” he said. “It is a grave sin.”

“We must not yield to the temptation to apply rapid or drastic solutions, moved by a false compassion or by criteria of efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Instead, we need to show respect, understanding and tenderness to patients who are seriously ill, so that the sacred value of their life can shine forth with splendour in their suffering,” he said. “Modern palliative care, an area in which the UK is a world leader, enables this.”

The bishop said assisted suicide “is fundamentally incompatible with a doctor’s role as healer.”

“It would be difficult or impossible to control, and it would pose serious societal risks,” he added. “The right to die would soon become the duty to die. Consider, for example, that since Belgium legalised assisted suicide and euthanasia in 2002, they have since extended this practice to children. This is just one horrifying example of where this sort of legislation can lead.”

The bill has the support of Guernsey Chief Minister Gavin St Pier and, if it is passed, it will make the island the first part of the British Isles to allow assisted suicide.

For decades, British campaigners for assisted suicide have failed to change the law through a series of Bills introduced in Parliament. They have brought a series of unsuccessful test cases before the courts to attempt to persuade judges to overturn the 1961 Suicide Act, under which assisting a suicide can bring a jail term of 14 years.

However, as a British Crown dependency, rather than an integral part of the UK, Guernsey sits outside the jurisdiction of the London-based Parliament and has the power to make its own laws.