Australia's Christian leaders unite to oppose proposed assisted suicide laws

Christian leaders have united in speaking up against the proposed laws on legal assisted suicide in Victoria, Australia, as they said the act would be tantamount to killing an elderly or terminally ill person.

(REUTERS / Jim Bourg)Bottles of medications sit on a cancer patient's bedside table at her home in Washington May 25, 2007.

Under the proposed assisted dying scheme, only residents of Victoria who are Australian citizens or permanent residents are eligible for the medical assisted death. Also, one must be over the age of 18 and in the advanced stage of an incurable medical condition to be allowed to seek voluntary euthanasia starting 2019, ABC detailed.

In an open letter which appeared as an advertisement in The Herald Sun on July 31, Anglican, Catholic, Coptic Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, and Lutheran church leaders said legalizing assisted suicide would be comparable to abandoning the people who need care and support the most. They also said the proposed laws would send a conflicting message on the value of life to people with high risk of suicide, The Age relayed.

"Euthanasia and assisted suicide represent the abandonment of those who are in greatest need of our care and support," the local Christian leaders said in the letter.

In addition, the letter warns that there is no guarantee that the deaths that would occur under the proposed assisted suicide laws would be absolutely voluntary because of the ever-present "risk of error, fraud or coercion." The Christian leaders added that the measure could pressure other terminally ill individuals to take their lives.

There are also other Christians who approve of the proposed assisted suicide laws. Ian Wood, the National Coordinator for Christians Supporting Choice for Voluntary Euthanasia, said the bishops' argument on the issue is misleading.

According to Wood, "no amount of coercion" at the point of terminal illness or disability will make a difference. He said assisted death is merely a choice between two methods of dying.