Dying cleric pleaded for assisted suicide to remain illegal

As Lord Falconer's Bill reaches the Lords, a letter by a chaplain with cancer warning against changing the law is to be circulated

A moving plea from a dying clergyman for assisted suicide to remain illegal has been sent to every member of the House of Lords by the Church of England as part of its campaign against a change in the law. Lord Falconer's Assisted Dying Bill, which would enable "competent, terminally ill" adults to receive help to end their life, is due to receive a reading in the Lords on Friday.

News of the moving personal plea came as it was revealed that Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, had changed his mind about the Bill and would be supporting it. Lord Carey said he had dropped his opposition "in the face of the reality of needless suffering".

Read more: Rev Christopher Jones' letter in full

Despite its former leader's change of mind, yesterday the Anglican church remained implacably opposed to the idea, with the current Archbishop, the Most Rev Justin Welby, describing the Falconer Bill as "mistaken and dangerous" and warning that elderly and severely disabled people would face pressure to end their lives if it were passed.

Anglicans are mobilising their forces to oppose the Bill with the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, pressing the message of "choose life" in his speech to open the General Synod yesterday. "Life's object is the glory of God and we must not rob God of his glory," he said.

Archbishop Sentamu Archbishop Sentamu Meanwhile Desmond Tutu, one of the world's most eminent Anglicans, entered the debate last night by backing the right of the terminally ill to end their lives in dignity. Writing in The Observer, the retired archbishop, 82, said laws that prevent people being helped to die are an affront to those affected and their families. He also condemned the "disgraceful" treatment of his old friend Nelson Mandela, who was kept alive through numerous painful hospitalisations and forced to endure a photo stunt with politicians shortly before his death at 95.

The Anglican Church has also been working behind the scenes to influence the Lords' vote, using an emotive discussion of the issue by the Rev Christopher Jones, former chaplain of St Peter's College, Oxford, and adviser to the Archbishops' Council, written while he knew he was dying of cancer.

In his account, Mr Jones, who died in 2012, wrote that he had experienced "extreme stress and a sense of hopelessness" as it became clear his condition was terminal, and "might have been open to the option of ending my life by legal means, had these existed".

But since then, he had experienced renewed "energy and vitality beyond anything I could have expected, and I am enjoying life in this period of 'remission", he wrote.

"The legal prohibition of this course was immensely helpful in removing it as a live option, thus constraining me to respond to my situation more creatively and hopefully," he went on. "In hindsight, I now know that had I taken this course, I would have been denied the unexpected and joyful experience of being 'recalled to life' as I now am. In the light of my experience, it is of prime importance that the law should signal the priority of the preservation of life – not at all costs but as the default option...."

He warned that there was "great danger" in giving "decisive significance" to an ill patient's judgement at any one time as their feelings could change "drastically" and quickly.

"My experience has reinforced my conviction that the law prohibiting assisted suicide is an essential bulwark against well-meaning but unwarranted judgements about the value of life and the desirability of ending it in order to minimise or eliminate suffering," Mr Jones wrote. "In my view, suffering is inescapable in this situation, and ought not to be allowed to trump all other considerations, especially when palliative care is taken into account."

The Rev Christopher Jones The Rev Christopher Jones Under the 1961 Suicide Act, it remains a criminal offence carrying up to 14 years in jail to help to take someone's life. The Director of Public Prosecutions issued guidelines four years ago that made clear that anyone who assisted a loved one to die while "acting out of compassion" would be unlikely to be charged.

Supporters of Lord Falconer's Bill were boosted when Lord Carey wrote in a newspaper article that he now believed "those who are painfully dying should be allowed to choose the timing of their end if they want". "The fact is that I have changed my mind. The old philosophical certainties have collapsed in the face of the reality of needless suffering," he added.

He said the "deepest influence" on his change of heart had been Tony Nicklinson, who was paralysed from the neck down following a stroke. He lost a High Court case in 2012 in which he argued doctors should be allowed to end his life and died a few days later after refusing any food.

Mr Nicklinson's widow, Jane, told BBC Radio 5 Live that Lord Carey's switch was "huge". "I'm amazed actually and thrilled, because the Church has always been one of our greatest opponents," she said.

The Bishop of Carlisle, the Right Rev James Newcome, who speaks for the Anglican church on health, said: "I think we were surprised by both the content and the timing of the article, but recognise that actually, quite a lot of good things have come out of it, including that it has brought some of the issues to the forefront...." He urged Lord Falconer to withdraw his Bill so that the subject could be "discussed at length" by Royal Commission.

Lord Falconer said he did not believe this was "sensible or appropriate" option. "It is an unwise suggestion because it will take a very long time," he said.

Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
The John Peel Lecture has previously been given by Pete Townshend of The Who, Billy Bragg and Charlotte Church
musicGodfather of punk will speak on 'free music in a capitalist society'
News
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
News
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments