Mark this year’s Day for Life by defending the rights of the sick and disabled

An assisted suicide Bill will be debated in the House of Commons on September 11 (AP)

This year’s Day for Life, celebrated in England and Wales this Sunday, July 26, is on the topic of “Cherishing Life – Accepting Death”.

There is a great paradox at the heart of the Gospel in that, in a sense, we can all be better off dead! If we die accepting God’s mercy then we can look forward to unimaginable bliss in the next life and eventual glorified bodily reunion with those who have gone before.

Yet, at the same time the Gospel message gives more reason to cherish this life, to recognise the dignity of each person as created in the image of God, as loved by God, and as redeemed by the death of Christ.

The message of Sunday’s Day for Life is one of hope for those preparing to die and of guidance for those caring for people who are dying. In the words of Bishop John Sherrington: “Catholics cherish and celebrate the gift of life but they are not vitalistic in saying that life must be preserved at all costs.”

More details and related links (including reflections from Pope Francis on care of the elderly and on loss of a loved one) are available online. The Day for Life site also gives a brief account of Catholic ethical principles on end of life care. (For further resources, visit the Anscombe Bioethics Centre site and especially the document on the ethics of care of the dying person.

At the same time as the Church is proclaiming a message of hope for a good death and for life everlasting, the care of people who are chronically ill or disabled is being threatened by proposed legislation for assisted suicide in England and Wales. This would divide patients into those judged to have lives “worth living” and those with lives “not worth living”, for whom death would be reasonable. (For more on this see the bishops’ conference website and the Anscombe Bioethics Centre.)

David Albert Jones is director of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre