Commission report supports assisted suicide
ASSISTED SUICIDE could “safely” be offered in England and Wales, according to an inquiry led by the former Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, writes Sam Adams.
A report by the Commission on Assisted Dying, which was to be released on Thursday, recommended that any future change to the law on the matter includes provision for the terminally ill to be given assistance to end their life, provided they satisfy a range of strict “eligibility criteria”.
The inquiry, which took 12 months to complete, was partly funded by author Sir Terry Pratchett, who supports the legalisation of assisted dying. Under the proposed framework, a dying person over the age of 18 with less than a year to live – and who meets other legal criteria – would be able to ask their doctor to prescribe them a dose of medication that would kill them, but would need to be able to take the medication themselves.
“Appropriate practical support” would be permitted for those with physical impairments but this should not mean someone else could administer the medication on their behalf. A set of safeguards was also proposed to protect those with impaired mental capacity, those with clinical depression or experiencing pressure from friends or relatives. These include a decision-making model involving the assessment, advice and judgement of two independent doctors with support from health and social care workers, where necessary. ■ Suicide is the biggest killer of young men in Ireland and more needs to be done to promote the value of life, Cardinal Seán Brady said in his New Year’s Day homily. The cardinal said society needs to take responsibility for suicide prevention. Figures from the Central Statistics Office of Ireland show a total of 486 deaths by suicide in 2010 of which 386 were men.
JPII envoy’s campaign to end Maze hunger strike
Sarah Mac Donald In Dublin
NEWLY DECLASSIFIED state papers have revealed the extent of the late Pope John Paul II’s efforts to bring an end to the 1981 IRA hunger strikes at the Maze prison in Northern Ireland, and the hardline position adopted by the British Government.
The new insights are gleaned from an internal memo of discussions between the Northern Ireland Secretary, Humphrey Atkins, and Pope John Paul’s secretary, Fr John Magee, who met Bobby Sands, the leader of Republican prisoners in the Maze prison. Fr Magee was born in Northern Ireland and acted as the Pope’s personal representative, visiting Sands a week before his death on 5 May 1981 after 66 days of refusing food.
In the memo recording his meeting with Mr Atkins at Stormont Castle on 29 April 1981, Fr Magee said Sands was prepared to end his hunger strike for five days on condition that a Northern Ireland Office official visit him to discuss “the whole question” with two priests present as “guarantors” along with three other prisoners who were not on hunger strike. Sands is said to have told Fr Magee that he was not seeking political status but sought satisfaction on the hunger strikers’ five demands. These included the right not to wear prison uniform, do prison work and free association with other prisoners.
The memo records Mr Atkins as telling Fr Magee that making these concessions would risk a violent reaction in Northern Ireland that would threaten innocent lives.
Fr Magee is said to have then pointed out that the Government had made promises to the prisoners at the end of the last hunger strike that had not been kept. Mr Atkins denied this and said he could not see Fr Magee again because to do so risked creating the impression that he was negotiating with him.
An extract from declassified British Cabinet minutes from the day after the Stormont meeting records the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as saying the Cabinet endorsed Mr Atkins’ stance.
According to the minutes she added: “Fr Magee had very correctly said nothing to the press; it was helpful that he was widely known to have urged Mr Sands and his associates to end their hunger strike.”
Ten prisoners died during the hunger strike, which lasted from 1 March to 3 October 1981. Fr Magee went on to become Bishop of Cloyne from 1987 to 2010.
Funding urgently needed for ordinariate
A 10 PER CENT levy will be charged to each ordinariate group in order to support the funding of the new structure, writes Christopher Lamb. Mgr John Broadhurst, who is in charge of finance for the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, said the levy will fund the group’s central administration.
“Many groups have not yet come forward with their promised contribution. This is now extremely urgent. All groups need to address themselves to the issue of giving,” Mgr
Broadhurst wrote in the ordinariate magazine, The Portal. “Without a serious level of giving we will be in some difficulty in the coming months.” Mgr Broadhurst said that a £250,000 donation from the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales to the ordinariate had almost run out. In the coming weeks, a second wave of Anglicans will join the ordinariate. Today, Bishop Robert Mercer will become the fourth Anglican bishop to join the British ordinariate. He is to be received at St Agatha’s Church, Portsmouth.
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