Christian leaders unite to oppose assisted suicide in Australia

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Catholics and Christian leaders from several denominations have joined forces in the Australian state of Victoria to decry a bill in favor of assisted suicide, expected to be proposed and voted on later this year.

“Euthanasia and assisted suicide represent the abandonment of those who are in greatest need of our care and support,” read the letter, which was printed in The Herald Sun July 31.

The statement was written by leaders from the Greek and Coptic Orthodox churches, as well as Anglicans, Lutherans, and Catholics, including Anglican Archbishop Philip Freier, Orthodox Bishop Ezekiel of Dervis, and Catholic Archbishop Denis Hart.

The bill is expected to be introduced to Victoria's parliament later this year, and is among the more strict in terms of protocol.

An expert panel chaired by the former president of the Australian Medical Association, Brian Owler, included 68 safeguards in his recommendations for the bill, making it one of the most conservative proposals in the world.

If the legislation is passed, assisted suicide would be a three-step process in the state of Victoria, with at least 10 days between the initial and final request. It would begin with a vocal request, a written request, and end with a final verbal request.

Despite this, no “'safeguards' will ever guarantee that deaths under the proposed laws will be completely voluntary,” the Christian leaders said in their statement Monday. “There will always be a risk of error, fraud or coercion.”

“When euthanasia or assisted suicide is an ever-present – even if unspoken – option, how long will it be before the option becomes an expectation?”

In their letter, the leaders appealed to members of their faith, citing the 2.8 million Christians in Victoria, including 1.4 million Catholics and 530 thousand Anglicans, according to a 2016 statistic.

Last year, a cross-party committee of Victoria's Members of Parliament recommended that a law be drafted to legalize assisted suicide, and a debate is expected to follow the bills introduction later this year.

With an exception to the Victoria's Green party, all Victorian MP's will not have to vote along party lines, but may vote according to their conscience.

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