"Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, is supporting moves to legalise assisted dying, it has emerged.
His intervention is a dramatic breach with the official line of the Church of England. It comes days before the House of Lords considers a Bill tabled by Lord Falconer allowing doctors to prescribe terminally ill patients a lethal dose of drugs.
Lord Carey argues that upholding the sanctity of human life without regard to suffering caused in the process could go against the spirit of Christian teaching.
He will point to the fact that Christians already rely on the ethical principle of “double effect” to justify giving terminally ill patients doses of painkillers which will ultimately kill them.
In an article last night, he said that advancing medical technology posed a “ethical turning point” and he believed that showing mercy and dignity in death should be “enshrined in law”, adding: “The fact is that I have changed my mind. The old philosophical certainties have collapsed in the face of the reality of needless suffering.”
"Opponents of the Bill said they were “flabbergasted” at Lord Carey’s change of position. Dr Peter Saunders, of the Christian Medical Fellowship, said: “There is no biblical precedent or justification for compassionate killing.
“There is a world of difference – ethically, legally, philosophically and theologically – between helping someone to kill themselves with a lethal drug on the one hand and proportionate pain relief or withdrawal of meddlesome treatment on the other.” Bishop Michael Nazir Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester, and a friend of Lord Carey, said: “We must not assume that we know when people are going to die. Lord Carey himself knows of individuals, that I also know of, who were given six months to live and lived for years afterwards.”
A spokesman for the Church of England said: “The Church of England is opposed to assisted suicide.” He said that the General Synod passed a motion in February 2012 which “expresses its support for the current law on assisted suicide as a mean of contributing to a just and compassionate society in which vulnerable people are protected”.
Church of England calls for review on assisted dying
Church's unprecedented stance comes after former Archbishop of Canterbury backs change in the law to allow assisted dying
"The Church of England has taken the unprecedented step of calling for a major review on whether to allow assisted dying after Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, stunned senior bishops by declaring his support for a change in the law.
In the wake of Lord Carey’s dramatic intervention, the Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Rev James Newcome, said that the Church would now back a royal commission to re-examine the issue.
Bishop Newcome, who speaks for the Church in the Lords on health issues, said that while bishops had been “surprised” by the content and timing of the former Archbishop’s article, it had highlighted “just what an important issue this is”.