Former Archbishop of Canterbury leads controversial debate in Havant on assisted dying

From left, Jacob Kennard, Gavin Moon, Ian Doyle and Sarah Talboys-Smith with Shanon Rees and Rodney Watson at the front
 at the Southsea Village in Palmerston Road Picture: Habibur Rahman

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  • Lord Carey says individual has right to choose
  • Critics say assisted suicide would put more people at risk than it would help
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STRONG arguments for and against assisted dying were laid out at a thought-provoking lecture.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, visited Stansted Park near Havant to give a lecture about why he supports a change in the law to allow adults with less than six months to live the right to ask for medical help to end their own life.

It comes after MPs threw out the proposed legislation by a margin of three to one last week.

More than 50 people attended the lecture in St Paul’s chapel and, in his introduction, Lord Carey said his stance had put him on a ‘collision course’ with the church.

He said new laws would ‘safeguard a practice that is already happening unregulated and behind closed doors’.

‘Whose life is it?’ he asked.

From left, the Church of England's national adviser on medical ethics the Rev Dr Brendan McCarthy, Lord Carey, and Professor Simon Lee, Fellow of St Edmund's College, Cambridge Picture: Jeff Travis

From left, the Church of England's national adviser on medical ethics the Rev Dr Brendan McCarthy, Lord Carey, and Professor Simon Lee, Fellow of St Edmund's College, Cambridge Picture: Jeff Travis

‘Does the person have any say in how she or he wants to spend their life?’

He said: ‘I believe compassion and mercy must always override dogma and ideology. Science has enabled us to live richer lives. But for some people a long life is accompanied by misery and indignity.’

And he added: ‘It’s certainly settled for the time being, at least until after the next general election.

‘But the issue remains. Unsatisfactory law remains.’

The Rev Dr Brendan McCarthy, the Church of England’s national adviser on medical ethics, said ethical questions needed to be examined with a fine-tooth comb.

He cited figures that 500,000 elderly people are abused in England and Wales every year – mainly by their own families.

‘It beggars belief, never mind imagination, to think a significant number of these people might be put under pressure,’ he said.

He said some people might be persuaded into assisted suicide over worries they were a burden to their families.

He added: ‘There’s something in the natural process of death and the timing of it that we change at our peril.’

After the debate, Jennie Dolman, from Rowlands Castle, told The News: ‘It was very thought-provoking with an interesting range of views.