Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey says he will support legislation that would make it legal for terminally ill people in England and Wales to receive help to end their lives.
Lord Carey writes in the Daily Mail that he has dropped his opposition to the Assisted Dying Bill “in the face of the reality of needless suffering”.
But the current Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has called the bill “mistaken and dangerous”.
Peers will debate the bill on Friday.
Tabled by Labour peer Lord Falconer, the legislation would make it legal for adults in England and Wales to be given assistance ending their own life. It would apply to those with less than six months to live.
Two doctors would have to independently confirm the patient was terminally ill and had reached their own, informed decision to die.
Some 110 peers are already listed to speak when the House of Lords debates the private members bill on Friday.
Insisting it would not be “anti-Christian” to change the law, Lord Carey said the current situation risked “undermining the principle of human concern which should lie at the heart of our society”.
He added: “Today we face a central paradox. In strictly observing the sanctity of life, the Church could now actually be promoting anguish and pain, the very opposite of a Christian message of hope.”
Lord Falconer: “Nobody wants people who are properly motivated by compassion to be prosecuted”
When Lord Carey was still the Archbishop of Canterbury he was among the opponents of Lord Joffe’s Assisting Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill, which was successfully blocked in the House of Lords in 2006.
But in his article in Saturday’s Daily Mail Lord Carey said: “The fact is that I have changed my mind. The old philosophical certainties have collapsed in the face of the reality of needless suffering.”
He said it was the case of Tony Nicklinson, who had locked-in syndrome and died after being refused the legal right to die , who had had the “deepest influence” on his decision.
Mr Nicklinson’s widow Jane, said Lord Carey’s switch was “huge”.
“I’m amazed actually and thrilled because the Church has always been one of our greatest opponents,” she told BBC Radio 5 live.
“Someone shouldn’t be forced to stay alive with daily suffering – his life was a living hell.”
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