The former Archbishop of Armagh, Robin Eames’, speech in the House of Lords opposing the assisted suicide bill


My Lords, this has been one of those occasions in the life of the House where there is satisfaction for all of us that we are concentrating on issues that really matter. This afternoon, listening to the contributions of my colleagues, and thinking back over 58 years of my life as a priest, a bishop and then an archbishop, I have been able to put names on almost all the human stories I have heard from noble Lords’ lips. That has not helped me in reaching a decision as to what I should say. In fact, it has made it more difficult, because I can see both sides of the argument. I want to share with my—if I may dare say it, from the disestablished Church of Ireland—episcopal colleagues, that I sense I know exactly what their problem is, and I am going to add to it.

What we are debating today is, on the surface of it, the right thing to do. We are moving humanity forward; we are giving people the opportunity to die with a new sense of dignity. How often in the dark hours sitting beside a bedside have I thought of those issues and have prayed that a person’s suffering would cease—that somehow, in my faith, the Almighty would receive them out of their pain.

But when I look at the Bill, so wonderfully introduced and supported by many who have thought deeply about it, I question whether the safeguards have been sufficiently analysed. A young doctor of my acquaintance said to me the other day, “Please, please, please get greater safeguards written into this legislation”—not that he was against some progress in healing the desperate burdens that have been described this afternoon. No, he wants to move forward, but he feels the vulnerability of so much that sounds well on the surface but, when looked at closely, does not give him safety or a guarantee. For that reason, I find it hard to support this legislation.

22 October 2021 2:58 Column 465