Death and dying are not comfortable topics for discussion. They raise uneasy questions and anxieties, reminders of our own frailty and vulnerability, and fears about the impending loss of loved-ones. But I am absolutely convinced that these are vital topics that we cannot avoid and must face head-on.
Just as we can’t escape being confronted with death and dying in our personal lives, so also these topics have taken on strategic importance in the public arena. Scarcely a week goes by without another high profile media story highlighting the inadequacies of end of life care in our health services, or the tragic story of an individual who committed suicide to escape the suffering and indignity of a terminal illness.
Sophisticated campaigning organisations across the world are using these personal tragedies as the driving force to change the law to allow various forms of medical killing. Their efforts seem to have been highly effective in influencing public opinion in favour of legislation for medically assisted suicide or ‘assisted dying’ as it is increasingly (but misleadingly) called. Of course these are much more than philosophical, political or legal issues. We must never forget the personal tragedies and fears that lie behind the public debates. Our first responsibility is to empathise, to try to comprehend and enter into, the human suffering, fear and desperation which many people face at the end of life.
I have provided a series of short essays dealing with the history of euthanasia in the UK, current international and UK practice, underlying social forces and common arguments in favour of euthanasia and assisted suicide. I’ve also discussed positive Christian responses, medical issues, palliative medicine and end of life care.
“If you don’t know where you are going, it’s sometimes helpful to know where you have been…” — William Temple
Beginning with the Netherlands, a growing number of jurisdictions around the world now permit forms of assisted suicide
Should humans always be the ‘master of their fates’ and ‘captains of their souls’?
Unpacking the oldest, and perhaps most compelling, case for assisted dying
‘We are most ourselves not when we seek to direct and control our destiny, but when we recognize and admit that our life is grounded in and sustained by God’
Charting the long, and so far unsuccessful, attempts to introduce euthanasia to Britain
Dementia, an ageing population, the costs of living longer: what is driving the vigorous campaigns to legalise death on demand?
Bringing in a euthanasia regime in Britain would open us to a slew of profoundly dangerous unintended consequences
Putting into practice our convictions against euthanasia means taking seriously end of life care
The drive to legalise euthanasia is not based on compassion for those suffering but a concern for autonomy
You can also find lengthier discussions of these issues in each of my books. In my first, Matters of Life and Death, chapters 9 and 10 engage with the debate and offer some solutions. Right To Die?, published in 2015, unpacks the polarised debate around assisted suicide and euthanasia, provides Christian responses to the main arguments in favour of assisted suicide, and shows how palliative care provides a compassionate and effective means of caring for people at the end of life.
Finally, in 2018 I released a companion volume – Dying Well – which came at this question from another angle: what might it look like to reject assisted suicide and euthanasia and instead focus on how to die a good death? It provides practical resources from both a medical and a Christian pastoral perspective on how to approach the last months, weeks and days of one’s life.
I have also uploaded a number of lectures, debates, essays and other resources which touch on this theme:
Loving my mother through her dementia and remembering this was not the end of her story
So many of us are afraid of death, and this fear seems to drive so much of the debate around dying
From premature babies to the elderly crippled by dementia, the church must speak into ethical concerns about how life begins and how it ends
Dogs and Guinness on the wards, ‘living until you die’, deathbed prayers, and complicated grief
Resisting assisted dying, the ‘superskill’ of listening, DNAR discussions, and euthanasia-free-zones
Dying well in an age of possibilities
Overcoming society’s final taboo
Should death be held at bay for as long as possible, or can we transcend a medicalised approach to our end?
Death and spirituality during a pandemic
Why does our Western society have such an unhealthy attitude towards death?
Euthanasia and assisted suicide
For many Christians assisted suicide seems like a compassionate choice
There are a number of practical problems and inconsistencies with the Meacher Bill. But first it’s important to consider the Bill’s underlying assumptions and philosophy
The Meacher Bill, radicals in the Lords, Canada’s slippery slope and fragile conscience protections
I also regularly speak at conferences, universities and churches on this theme – click here to get in touch to book me to speak at your event.