COI Gazette – 31st May 2013

C. of I./Methodist links bring ‘richness’, says incoming Methodist President

The Revd Dr Heather Morris

The Revd Dr Heather Morris

The Revd Dr Heather Morris, who will be installed on 12th June next as President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, the first woman to hold the post, has told the Gazette how Methodist links with the Church of Ireland have brought “richness” to her life and ministry.

Dr Morris, who was speaking to the editor after a press conference in Belfast last week, highlighted links between the Church of Ireland Theological Institute and the Methodist Church’s Edgehill Theological College, where she has been teaching; her appointment as an ecumenical canon of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, which she described as “a sign of openness and welcome and hospitality”; and co-operation in parishes and congregations, such as at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Monkstown, Co. Antrim, and in the chaplaincy at Queen’s University Belfast.




One of the issues that were touched on during last week’s press conference with the incoming President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, Dr Heather Morris (report, page 1), was that of ‘Physician Assisted Suicide’ (PAS). The subject is addressed extensively in a report to be presented to the Methodist Conference to be held from 12th-16th June next in Carrickfergus.

The complexity of the issue is illustrated by the fact that there is a subtle difference between euthanasia and PAS. In the former, another person, usually a doctor, takes the action that ends a life, whereas with PAS the other person assists by putting the process in place, but it is the patient who actually takes the final, lethal action.

The Methodist report carefully outlines the implications of PAS for the terminally ill, the mentally ill, people with disabilities, relatives and for palliative and terminal care. It also points out that while some people may not use the term ‘sanctity’ in relation to human life, the overwhelming majority of people regard human life as at least special, and goes on to set out the scriptural basis for a doctrine of the sanctity of human life.

The report points out that, because of the emotional issues surrounding PAS, it is difficult to establish the consequences in those countries where it has become legal, commenting: “Sensational anecdotes abound from both those in favour and those against. However, there are documented accounts of the safeguards being flouted and the rules being broken without any investigation or prosecution.

In other words, the safeguards are not working.” A case study of the situation in the Netherlands notes that, despite a comprehensive investigative report, there is a lack of clarity.

The fact of the matter is that PAS would place vulnerable people in a situation in which they might be expected to request it, in order not to be a burden to others.

Both PAS and euthanasia undermine the doctor/patient relationship in a fundamental way, the doctor’s role properly being seen as assisting healing or, where that is not medically possible, relieving pain and suffering as much as possible.

The Methodist Church has done all the Churches a service in raising this issue and its report wisely concludes that, while there can be considerable suffering at the end of life, the answer is “to improve terminal care, not to assist in suicide”.


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