Why shouldn’t we legalise assisted suicide? – CARE comment piece ahead of the publication of the Bill
I want to be a burden on my family – The Guardian
Lord Falconer’s assisted dying bill is an insult to everyone – God & Politics Blog
Doctors must have nothing to do with suicide of patients (£) – Baroness Finlay, The Times
License for suicide by any other name – Daily Telegraph
Today, Baroness Howe of Idlicote will introduce legislation intended to protect under-eighteens from adult content online. Welcomed by internet safety charities, her new Online Safety Bill has its First Reading in the House of Lords today.
Baroness Howe explained the hypocrisy of our current child protection laws and the importance of her Bill proposing web filtering on the basis of age-verification:
“If we really care about children then we must not shy away from using the law to protect them online, as we do very properly offline.”
“It makes no sense that children are prohibited by law from accessing adult content offline but that no parallel regulatory framework exists online. If we value children and recognise that it is not appropriate for children to access adult content offline then the same must apply online – and yet, all too often, it doesn’t.”
Critical of the Government’s current approach to internet safety, the Crossbencher life peer is proposing a statutory approach to protecting children from adult content online. She said:
“While I recognise that the Government has shown an interest in addressing this challenge, it is far from clear to me that their voluntary approach is working or is likely to.”
“It is interesting to note that, prior to 2005, children’s charities drew attention to an increased incidence of children gambling online. The industry agreed that this was a problem. Very little happened to address the problem until the online gambling providers were required to introduce online age verification by law, courtesy of the 2005 Gambling Act. The 2005 Act established a very important precedent that my Bill builds on in relation to other adult content.”
The Online Safety Bill has received an enthusiastic welcome from charities working to promote internet safety for children.
Dan Boucher, Director of Parliamentary Affairs from the charity CARE, said:
“We are facing the reality that children across the UK have easy access to sickeningly abusive images and content online, from violent pornography to websites promoting self-harm. The internet giants are not doing enough to stem this tide of harmful material so greater demands must be made of them by Parliament. Baroness Howe’s Bill provides a critical opportunity for Parliament to compel mobile phone operators and internet service providers to take responsibility for their inaction in what would be a major step towards greater internet safety for children.”
Miranda Suit, Co-Chairman of the charity Safermedia, responded to the Bill’s plans:
“Baroness Howe’s Bill contains effective and well-thought-out measures which will keep children much safer whenever and wherever they are online. The Bill’s opt-in ISP level filter would provide the best protection from increasingly violent and abusive pornography which should not be left to self-regulation. After several years of raising the alarm, Safermedia is delighted to see vital legislation on this issue.”
For further information please contact Ruth Bessant on tel: 07581 153693 or email: email@example.com
On Wednesday 15 May, Lord Falconer will table a Bill in the House of Lords in an effort to legalise assisted suicide. This is not surprising news, but it does mean that we have the opportunity, responsibility and duty to advocate the value of human life, speak up for the vulnerable and expose the dangers of changing the law.
Assisting or encouraging suicide is currently illegal in the UK despite several attempts to change the law in recent years – in the House of Lords in 2006 and 2009 and in the Scottish Parliament in 2010. Lord Falconer’s proposal is for mentally competent, terminally ill adults with six months or less to live to be able to ask a doctor to provide a lethal dose of drugs upon request. The individual would then take the concoction provided.
The Bill may have a Second Reading as soon as the summer (i.e. late June) or not until the autumn and there will, of course, be opportunity for all the arguments to be expounded in the coming weeks and months.
However, for the time being it is interesting to briefly reflect on the fact that the closer individuals get to the issue of assisted suicide, the lower the level of support for a change in the law.
Six out of ten Members of Parliament – who debated the Director of Public Prosecutions’ (DPP) guidelines on assisted suicide as recently as March 2012 – oppose or strongly oppose legalising assisted suicide for mentally competent terminally ill people according to a ComRes poll published in September 2012. This is despite recent high profile court cases given significant, largely sympathetic media coverage.
Additionally, the vast majority of clinicians are opposed to legalising assisted suicide. The British Medical Association opposes assisted suicide and rejected motions to adopt a neutral stance on the issue in June 2012. They are joined in their opposition by the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Royal College of Physicians, the British Geriatric Society and the Association for Palliative Medicine.
The courts have consistently rejected attempts to change the law ‘through the back door’, asserting that any change in the law must come from democratic debate in Parliament.
Why should this be the case? Are these three groups comprised of people so markedly different from the population that it is only natural that there should be such a divergence of opinion? This seems unlikely. How often do we see MPs reject policies favoured by an apparent majority of the population? In addition, people cost the NHS more in the last 6 months of their lives – the period that Lord Falconer aims to cover – than throughout the rest of the lives, so money may be saved if assisted suicide was legalised. What is the problem?
Having thought long and hard about the issue following debates in the Commons in January and March of 2012, MPs remain unconvinced that public safety concerns have been dealt with. Even with the very best safeguards, the pressure on vulnerable people – imagined or real – will remain. Ultimately, for MPs, the current law is clear and does not need to be meddled with. Assisted suicide is illegal and punishable by up to 14 years’ imprisonment – a powerful deterrent – and the DPP’s guidelines provide for discretion and the tempering of justice with mercy in particularly hard cases.
Any clinician will readily admit that diagnosis and prognosis is not an exact science and would recognise that it is incredibly difficult to determine how long a person has left to live. Additionally, whilst palliative medicine may not be a panacea able to alleviate all pain and suffering, it can effectively tackle many of the drivers for assisted suicide, namely fear of dying badly, worries about a loss of control and concerns about quality of life.
Our point of departure as Christians is that the intrinsic value of human life makes support for assisted suicide incompatible with our faith. However, it is understandable – if not condonable – that, from a quick scan of the papers, the view of the public (some suggest even the Christian population) leans towards legalising assisted suicide. Yet Christian love extends beyond mere compassion for individual circumstance as we recognise a Creator God who knit us together in His image and first loved us.
The Bill proposed by Lord Falconer is unnecessary and dangerous. Particularly in a time of recession, with an aging population and a stretched health service, it should be given short shrift ensuring that the vulnerable remain protected as they currently are.
In the midst of much media hyperbole, policy scrutiny and political chatter, the Universal Credit was finally unleashed on the British public this week, albeit through a small pilot in the town of Ashton-Under-Lyne. In what many have dubbed ‘the most significant welfare reform since tax credits’, I thought I would offer some observations on some of the opportunities and challenges of Universal Credit, the brainchild of Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith (IDS).
Many will tell you that for all the benefits of tax credits, they were extremely complex; both in terms of the bureaucratic behemoth required to administer the plethora of payments available, and in terms of claimants understanding what it was they were actually entitled to.
To this end, the Government and IDS argue that due to the Universal Credit combining many of the existing tax credits and benefits (such as Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance and the income-related Employment and Support Allowance) into one uniform payment, simplicity will result. In turn, they argue that this will result in a less complex bureaucratic framework, meaning that fraud and error should be reduced and the demand on the public purse-strings eased.
As far as claimants of Universal Credit are concerned, one might also argue that increased simplicity will result in recipients being able to more easily establish how much (or little) they will be entitled to. This is of course on the proviso that claimants will be able to get online and fill out the forms that will tell them how much they’ll get in the first place (the form filling required for Universal Credit award will all be done online).
Whilst in my view this theoretical increased simplicity is to be applauded, we are yet to see how this will work out in practice. Given the recent news reports about apparent problems with the computer system behind Universal Credit, it may be best at this stage to reserve absolute judgement.
Simplicity matters, because (and this I think is often missed in policy and media debates on welfare) it affects what is known as the ‘take-up rate’ of a benefit or credit. In other words, a credit could be worth £1,000,000 to a certain individual or family, but if you need a PhD in order to fathom all the forms, then will the eligible family actually be able to claim the benefit and be any better off in reality?
Under the soon-to-be overhauled system of tax credits, it was, unbelievably enough, possible to be facing a Marginal Effective Tax Rate (METR) of some 96%, meaning that for every extra £1 earned through something like overtime, an earner would only see 4 pence come into the household!
In relation to this, IDS has said that under Universal Credit ‘work will always pay’ and he’ll argue this is backed up by the fact that no earner will face an METR higher than 76.2%; meaning that an earner subject to this METR will see 24 pence come into the household from every extra £1 earned.
However before we got too excited, where would this ‘reduced’ METR leave the UK in comparison to other developed countries? Not in a very flattering position. The latest data from the OECD shows, for instance, that an METR of 76.2% would leave a UK one-earner family on 75% of the OECD average wage at the top of the pile when compared to other families internationally, thus one-earner families facing this METR will still gain the least from any extra £1 earned in comparison to other OECD families. While it is welcome that the very highest METRs will be reduced under Universal Credit, it is still worrying that a quarter of all families will face an METR of 76%.
Last, but most definitely not least, for all the design details and quirks of the Universal Credit, what most families and individuals will be most interested in is whether the Universal Credit will leave them in or out of pocket in comparison to Tax Credits.
As with most tax, benefits and welfare policy, the answer as to whether you will be a winner or a loser very much depends on who you are.
To take just two family types, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (whose conclusions have been confirmed by the Department of Work and Pensions) have said that:
Lone Parents with two children:
For couples with two children:
Taking a look at the bigger picture, the DWP published an Impact Assessment in December 2012. This shows that 3.1 million households will have higher entitlement as a result of Universal Credit – gaining, on average, £168 per month. Around 1.9 million households will see an increase of more than £100 per month. 2.8 million Households will have lower entitlement – the average reduction will be £137 per month. The majority will have a reduction of less than £100 per month.
All in all, there appear to be some encouraging points to the Universal Credit, not least the fact that it will hopefully prove simpler to administer than tax credits and will reward those who work for any amount of hours (under tax credits, one has to work at least 16 hours per week before becoming eligible.)
However, there are still too many unknowns in the mix for us to judge whether the Universal Credit will be a success. Will the new computer system be able to cope? Will those without easy and convenient access to the internet end up losing out? How will the financial losers cope with the loss in income? With all these questions still to be answered, there’s still much to play for for all parties concerned when it comes to this wide ranging policy reform.
On Monday, the Irish Supreme Court delivered another defeat for those seeking to legalise assisted suicide. Marie Fleming, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, had sought permission for her partner to be able to her to end her life without facing prosecution for doing so. However, the Supreme Court ruled against her.
Mrs Fleming had argued that, as suicide is legal, she was discriminated against as a disabled person who is unable to avail herself of the choice freely available to others. However, as others have pointed out, to legalise something does not result in an automatic right to it – in this case suicide (read more about this in an excellent summary from Care Not Killing’s Dr Peter Saunders).
Compassion for an individual and/or their circumstances – however tragic – does not require that we disregard our moral compass nor accept their desired outcome as a ‘right’. Compassion does not always lead to an acceptance of another’s desires; in fact, the loving outcome may be profound disagreement with the course of action someone is set upon. The intrinsic value of human life as made in the image of God is such that, whilst we might not like suffering, we accept that it is part of what it means to be human and do not take steps to end life prematurely.
Two cases appealing earlier decisions will be heard by the Court of Appeal in London on 13 May. Both cases are addressing the law on murder, rather than the Irish case which focused on amending the law concerning assisted suicide. Paul Lamb, a man who was almost entirely paralysed following a road accident twenty years ago, will have his case heard at the same time as Jane Nicklinson, the wife of Tony who suffered from locked-in syndrome and died last year.
We hope that the Court will indicate – as it has done previously – that any change in the law regarding murder or suicide must be made by Parliament.
Moreover, we also anticipate a fresh push to legalise assisted suicide within parliament in the House of Lords. Lord Falconer, a keen supporter of changing the law who has attempted to do so previously and failed, intends to introduce a Bill in May or June 2013. Again, we will keep supporters informed and equip you to take action against this dangerous proposal.
This week CARE welcomed a report scrutinising the Government’s plans to regulate remote (online) gambling. The report issued by the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee gives full support for the principle of regulating gambling on a ‘point of consumption’ basis.
In December last year, the Government published a draft Bill with the intention of tightening up remote gambling by amending the Gambling Act 2005. We were very pleased with this development as we have been campaigning for greater regulation of internet gambling for a number of years.
The draft Bill will require overseas gambling operators to obtain a Gambling Commission licence if they want to offer gambling or advertise to British consumers. According to the report, currently around 80% of remote gambling is conducted with operators which are not licensed in the UK. Requiring gambling operators to obtain a licence means that firms must sign up to the Government’s conditions designed to protect consumers and children. This includes assisting people who are problem gamblers to self-exclude themselves from websites where they can gamble.
The Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s report makes a specific reference to CARE’s call for a ‘one-stop shop’ for self exclusion for problem gamblers; although disappointingly it stopped short of repeating a previous call it has made for the implementation of such a mechanism of self-exclusion.
The ‘one-stop shop’ initiative aims to support problem gamblers who are seeking to prevent themselves from accessing gambling websites by simplifying the exclusion process to just one request as opposed to contacting every gambling website individually. Ultimately, it aims to help problem gamblers control compulsive gambling in a far more effective and responsible way.
Giving evidence on behalf of CARE to the Committee in January, Lauri Moyle explained that this would be far easier to achieve if all companies providing remote gambling in the UK had to be licensed here. Moreover, once self-exclusion was made simpler then we believe more people with gambling problems would make use of it.
Lauri Moyle, CARE’S consultant on remote gambling, commented on the Committee’s findings:
“We are delighted that this latest report provides further support for the regulation of online gambling in the UK. However, if remote gambling becomes normalised in the UK then at the very least we need to ensure that those at risk of problem gambling are given help and support.”
“It is for this reason that we are disappointed the Committee did not repeat its recommendation for the development of a system of self-exclusion. We continue to call on the Government to adopt a ‘one-stop shop’ for self-exclusion to empower those who are actively seeking to control their gambling.”
Culture, Media and Sport Committee Report, Pre–legislative scrutiny of the draft Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Bill, Sixth Report of Session 2012–13, 01 May 2013
Culture, Media and Sport Committee Report, The Gambling Act 2005: A bet worth taking?, First Report of Session 2012–13, 24 July 2012
The Gambling (Licensing & Advertising) Bill – Commons Library Standard Note
This afternoon the Northern Ireland Assembly rejected a motion calling for the introduction of legislation to introduce same-sex marriage by 53 votes to 42. This was a greater margin of victory than was the case when this subject was debated six months ago, when the Assembly voted against the redefinition of marriage by 50 votes to 45.
MLA’s also rejected an amendment put down by the Alliance Party, which sought to introduce civil marriage for same-sex couples “provided that robust legislative measures permit faith groups to define, articulate and practise religious marriage as they determine.” This amendment was defeated by 51 votes to 46.
We want to thank supporters in Northern Ireland for writing to their MLA’s on this issue and all of those who prayed for the current definition of marriage to be maintained. We are glad that the Assembly has rejected calls to redefine marriage in the province and we will continue to work to uphold the traditional definition of marriage in the months and years to come.
We are very thankful to God for this positive outcome.
Click on the links below for further coverage of the debate:
I am delighted to be able to report that four good resolutions were adopted this week by the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly on several issues of concern to CARE. The Parliamentary Assembly, comprised of seconded members of national parliaments of the 47 Member States, has a plenary session every quarter which I attended in Strasbourg earlier this week.
We lobbied for the adoption of four resolutions calling on the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers and the Member states to take action concerning:
- The fight against sexual exploitation of children
- The defence of religious liberty both in Europe and in dealing with ‘third countries’ – those countries which are outside Europe
- The exercise of proper ethical control over developments in science and technology
- Nanotechnology and associated benefits and risks
All four resolutions were adopted with overwhelming majorities. I am particularly pleased to be able to report that the text of the child sexual exploitation resolution (which CARE helped to draft) was passed unanimously with no amendments.
The text on religious freedom – ‘Safeguarding human rights in relation to religion and belief and protecting religious communities from violence’ – was adopted by 148 votes to 3 with 7 abstentions. Amongst other things, it reaffirms the right of conscience and of parents to have education for their children which reflects their personal religious and philosophical convictions. It also calls on States to change their legal regulations whenever these go against the freedom of association for groups (including churches) defined by their religion or beliefs.
Both texts on science and ethics call for stronger safeguards and better regulation of developments in science and technology to ensure compliance with ethical standards.
You can read the full text of the four resolutions below:
In the midst of the furore surrounding the Coalition’s wide-ranging welfare and benefits reforms, and amid claims made by many that the Government’s recent childcare changes discriminate against one-earner households, I thought it worth considering whether stay-at-home parents – i.e. those who spend the entirety of their working week at home caring for children or other dependents – should be paid a wage by the Government, recognising the many jobs they do around the home. By ‘jobs’, I mean tasks which it would not be unusual to demand a wage for, e.g. cleaning, taxi driving and cooking to name but a few!
It is possible to come at this from a number of angles. Of particular importance is the value – i.e. the status and respect commanded within society – placed on the work of stay-at-home parents in comparison to other professions. That is, many argue that the value of being a stay-at-home parent is significantly less than that of a ‘professional’ man or women. Many reasons for this have been proposed, but more importantly in the context of this article, would the value and standing of stay-at-home parents improve in the eyes of society if it were attached to a wage? More to the point still, would more families become one-earner households if doing so were tied to a financial incentive?
Whilst I am not saying that stay-at-home parents should consider becoming such for purely financial reasons, it is intriguing to note that, according to polling, many parents would consider the stay-at-home option if it were more financially viable. Indeed, when one considers research conducted both in the USA and UK, that suggests that when totting up all the tasks stay-at-home parents accomplish, it could add up to anything between approximately £30,000 and £75,000 per year.
Some will of course say that in this dire economic climate we simply cannot afford to pay stay-at-home parents from the public purse. Yet, as mentioned earlier, the Government has found some £1.4 billion for its latest childcare plans, and has found even more – £10.7 billion by 2016-17 – to raise the personal income tax threshold to £10,000, which will primarily benefit two-earner households in the upper half of the income distribution.
Hence, whilst it may be a little unrealistic to expect stay-at-home parents to be paid £75,000 per year by the Government, would it really be that unreasonable to give something to help households where one parent stays at home and has significant caring responsibilities? After all, as much research has highlighted, it is one-earner households who are especially likely to be in poverty (only households where there is no-one in work are likely to experience higher poverty rates, whilst lone parent families are also at high risk). In addition, as the Christian social policy charity CARE has pointed out, one-earner households currently lose out when it comes to the tax system and work incentives, seeing only 27 pence come into the household for every extra £1 earned in work (this is particularly true for poorer one-earner households on the minimum wage, 50% and 75% of the OECD average wage).
From a political and policy viewpoint (and let us not forget David Cameron’s pledge to make Britain the most ‘family friendly country in Europe’), any policy along these lines could be limited to families on incomes below a certain level, and could be limited to families with young children or with significant caring responsibilities for older children or adults. In any case, when considering the contribution stay-at-home parents make, the value of this role in society, the raw deal one-earner households are currently afforded and the policies the Government has introduced to help other household types, maybe offering remuneration to stay-at-home parents isn’t such a bizarre idea after all!
CARE in Northern Ireland was very pleased to see Sinn Fein overwhelmingly back a campaign to make buying sex a criminal offence at its Ard Fheis (Party Conference) on Saturday evening. Sinn Fein members voted to support the ‘Turn Off the Red Light Campaign’ – a coalition of organisations including political parties, Trade Unions, Christian Organisations and civil society groups seeking to criminalise the purchase of sexual services in the Republic of Ireland (http://www.turnofftheredlight.ie/). Its decision has made Sinn Fein the 67th organisation to join forces with the campaign.
Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, Sinn Fein’s spokesperson for Justice and Equality, said following the vote:
“There are as many as 1000 women and girls for sale for sex in Ireland today. Prostitution is not a real choice for the vast majority of these women. In countries, like Sweden, where the purchase of sex is illegal, there has been a massive decline in prostitution and a significant reduction in sex trafficking and organised crime.
“The ‘Turn off The Red Light’ campaign argues that the most effective solution is to tackle the demand for paid sex that fuels prostitution and trafficking. We also need to ensure that those in prostitution are supported to exit this life and make a fresh start by a range of government services working together in an integrated fashion.”
This expression of support by the second largest political party in Northern Ireland could have a significant impact on Lord Morrow’s ‘Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill’ which is due to come before the Assembly in the next few months. Amongst proposals to increase protection and support for victims of trafficking, the Bill contains a clause seeking to criminalise the purchase of sex. Lord Morrow’s Bill will require Sinn Fein support to succeed due to the cross-community design of the Northern Ireland Assembly, making this latest decision all the more important.
The charity CARE has linked the fall in organ donation numbers in Wales to growing public disquiet over controversial plans by the Welsh Government to introduce deemed (presumed) consent. Ahead of tomorrow’s major debate on the Human Transplantation [Wales] Bill, CARE warns the Welsh Government that this decline in donations should give it cause to re-think its proposals.
Dan Boucher, speaking from Swansea today, commented on the latest figures:
‘We would have expected the number of donations to increase as a result of the heightened political and media spotlight on the issue. The Welsh Government should not turn a blind eye to the 22% decrease in organ donations in the last twelve months. The fact that in the last five years organ donation rates were improving but then in the last year, during which there has been much public debate and coverage of the Welsh Government’s plans, donation has actually fallen gives significant grounds for concern and a reason to pause on introducing deemed consent.’
The social policy charity points to the oral evidence given to the Health and Social Care Committee by a consultant in intensive care in Swansea which revealed the potentially negative impact of the Welsh Government’s plans as they currently stand. Dr Peter Matthews, also representing the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges in Wales, told members of the Assembly:
‘My own experience is that the British psyche has a particular view that what it should do is donate organs as an altruistic gift, and if it is felt that the state is going to take over the organs, then there is the potential that people who may have been willing to become a donor will not do so. We have seen two cases in Morriston where patients who were on the organ donation register, on hearing about this, said to their families that if the state was going to take their organs, they were no longer willing to give them. We lost two donations because of that. So, there is a potential backlash.’ 
The drop in donations has been accompanied by increasing public opposition to the opt-out donation system as revealed by the drop in support for the Welsh deemed consent plans by 14% last year.
CARE argues that trust underpins doctor-patient relationships and the deemed consent plans are eroding this to the detriment of the enormous benefits of ethical organ donation.
The charity’s Welsh Affairs spokesman, Dan Boucher, concluded:
‘History provides us with warnings over the fragile nature of voluntary donations when the state starts to undermine trust. The historian Dr Ruth Richardson has noted that, in the 19th century, the number of voluntary donations plummeted as a consequence of the state using the law to adopt a more demanding posture in relationship to the bodies of its citizens. In this context the number of available bodies actually fell, trust between the state and medical profession on the one hand, and the people on the other was severely damaged. It took years to restore trust and develop a much more successful system based on donation.
‘In light of falling donation rates and growing public opposition to deemed consent, the Welsh Government needs to re-think its proposals to prevent long-term harm to the altruistic system of voluntary organ donation. International studies illustrate clearly that it is changes to the system management and infrastructure relating to organ donation that make the real difference in improving rates of donation.’
For further information please contact Ruth Bessant, Public Affairs Media and Communications Officer on tel: 020 7227 4731 or 07581 153693 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Figures from the NHS Blood and Transplantation (NHSBT) showed the number of deceased organ donations in Wales fell from 67 to 52 in the last 12 months. http://www.nhsbt.nhs.uk/news/2013/newsrelease110413.html
3. In a poll taken by the BBC in March 2012 63% of those polled supported presumed consent: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-17226610 This was followed six months later by the Welsh Government poll which identified only 49% as supporters of the plan to introduce presumed consent: http://wales.gov.uk/newsroom/healthandsocialcare/2012/121019od/?lang=en
4. “These historical precedents, I believe, help clarify current dilemmas. If public policy were to be changed in the direction of “presumed consent,” a great deal would be at stake. Historically, legislation of a similar complexion, intended to obtain an increased supply of whole bodies for anatomy had a number of unforeseen effects:
- The number of voluntary donations plummeted.
- Those liable to requisition devised ways to avoid that fate.
- The new supply was smaller than that already existing.
- The new supply was less useful than that already existing.
- The profession found itself the object of profound mistrust and violence.
- The profession was sullied by its coercive role in denying autonomy.”
Fearful Symmetry: Corpses for Anatomy, Organs for Transplantation, Richardson, R. Found in Organ Transplantation: Meanings and Realities, Stuart J Youngner, Renee C Fox and Laurence J. O’Connell (eds) (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press), 1996, p79
5 The majority of consultation responses on the draft Bill to many questions asked were negative even when discounting the identical letters. Twice as many people said the provisions in the draft Bill for the family were not clear, than clear. Twice as many people said the provisions in the draft Bill for registering wishes were not clear than clear. Twice as many people said the provisions in the Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) did not properly set out how the legislation will affect different sections of society, including children and people who lack capacity, than said it did. A very large majority of respondents expressed doubts about proposals for the public information campaign that is supposed to ensure that those who have their consent deemed genuinely elect to have their consent deemed from a position of knowledge. See: http://wales.gov.uk/docs/dhss/consultation/121019responsesen.pdf
In the past five years, the number of people in the UK donating organs after death has increased by 50%, matching a target set by the Department of Health’s Organ Donation Taskforce in 2008. The number of transplants taking place over the same period has risen by 30% (this figure is lower as some organs may not be suitable).
This is fantastic news, but what is particularly interesting to CARE is that this increase has been secured as a result of government appealing to people’s altruism and respecting their consent.
In Wales, the Government has a Bill in the National Assembly which proposes to treat someone who has died, without expressly stating their desire to donate or not, as having in fact given their consent by default – their consent to donate is ‘deemed’ or ‘presumed’. To read a theological reflection on some of the problems which arise with this approach, click here. (PDF)
As a result of the Government’s Bill, there has been much public discussion of the need for more donations. However, rather than seeing an increase in organ donation, donation rates in Wales have actually fallen in the last 12 months.
CARE has always expressed concern that a move from respecting people as made in God’s image, appealing to altruistic natures and respecting consent to a more presumptive or ‘grabbing’ posture could backfire. In fact, although the Welsh Government’s Bill has not yet become law, some formerly willing donors have removed their names from the organ donation register in objection to the state becoming involved in the ‘taking’ of organs.
See, for example, this excerpt from evidence given by Dr Peter Matthew to the Health and Social Care Committee in Wales on 30 January 2013:
‘My own experience is that the British psyche has a particular view that what it should do is donate organs as an altruistic gift, and if it is felt that the state is going to take over the organs, then there is the potential that people who may have been willing to become a donor will not do so. We have seen two cases in Morriston where patients who were on the organ donation register, on hearing about this, said to their families that if the state was going to take their organs, they were no longer willing to give them. We lost two donations because of that. So, there is a potential backlash.’
CARE opposes the Bill, which will be debated in the Welsh Assembly next Tuesday, and does not believe it is the best way to boost organ availability.
If you have not signed up to the organ donor register, why not do so now by clicking here?
Care for Europe and the World Youth Alliance co-hosted a striking photographic exhibition on human trafficking in Brussels in January. Members of the European Parliament and representatives from other organisations attended the event.
Alongside the exhibition a seminar was held, which not only highlighted the demand for trafficking in human beings for labour and sexual exploitation, but pointed out links with other items and services we might buy in all innocence.
Gerard Oonk, Director of the India Commission of the Netherlands, highlighted how trade and commercial interests sometimes supersede human rights. He suggested that consumers who want to make a difference could contact retailers and ask about the origin of raw materials in their products – cotton for example.
Philip Hyldgaard of the A21 Campaign spoke about sexual exploitation. He identified the ascendancy of pornography as a root cause in increasing demand for sexual exploitation, suggesting that men who pay for sex, cultures that tolerate exploitation and countries that enable demand to flourish, should be put into the spotlight.
Adrian Cot’s thought-provoking photographs portrayed Uzbekistani cotton pickers, fashion models, women enslaved in sexual exploitation and viewers of pornography and visitors to brothels.
‘This is my interpretation of the living connections between supply and demand,’ he explained, ‘and the subsequent impact for the exploited and for the consumer – right across Europe.’
‘We want to try to prevent the obscenity of human trafficking from being “out of sight, out of mind”,’ reflected David Fieldsend, Care for Europe manager. ‘The recent EU Directive on combating human trafficking is one ray of hope on the horizon, but it needs to be effectively implemented at the national level throughout Europe.’
Each generation needs to communicate God’s unchanging word to an ever-changing world. I believe the Church is increasingly adapting to make a paradigm shift: seeing the workplace as a primary sphere of ministry and mission, holistic mission that includes evangelism, apologetics and social action.
Our calling is to be missional – to go into the world to make a difference for Christ, engaging ever more fully with our culture. In the past, some Christians have felt that we shouldn’t get involved in spheres such as politics, media, arts and entertainment – regarding culture as being intrinsically worldly, so the Church should not be involved with it. Actually, all cultures have their good aspects, so it’s good to find whatever kingdom resonances we can connect with, wherever we work and live.
Postmodernity, which has shaped our culture over the last fifty years or so, comes up with concepts like relativism (there’s no such thing as absolute truth) and syncretism (blending of different beliefs) that can make proclaiming the gospel more difficult. But other aspects really resonate with a Christian worldview, like the hunger for community and an increasing disillusionment with materialism.
A key verse for me here is 1 Peter 3:15 – ‘Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have … with gentleness and respect.‘
Much church training focuses on personal evangelism – making conversions for Christ – but we also need a more longterm, person-sensitive approach that meets them where they are. Maybe not so many people ask questions, but there are more opportunities to speak if they see the radical difference that Christ makes in our lives.
There is growing interest in a theology of the workplace, such as ethics and learning, and leading like Christ. Traditionally, Christian leadership has mainly meant ‘being a vicar’, but we all have opportunities wherever God places us! More thinking and teaching is needed to equip Christians to lead in a counter-cultural way that expresses servant leadership.
‘Followership’ of Christ always precedes leadership. Bill Hybels describes leadership as influence, so in one sense all Christians are leaders. But some grow into transformational individuals who are not shaped by culture but who are culture-shapers.
I recently talked with a Christian MP about challenges he faces in Parliament, trying not to compromise but still retain influence. We summed up three ‘types’ of approach:
Prophet – going in all guns blazing, compromising on nothing. Unfortunately they may never be elected and, if they were, they would be in serious trouble!
Party person – keen for preferment, perhaps making too great a compromise, going against their conscience.
Pragmatist – recognising which battles to fight, when to speak out or to be silent, in order to be light and salt in a given situation.
These principles can apply to many spheres of life, including our work.
One is the transition in our society and culture to post-Christendom. The Church’s prominence and privilege in the nation is rapidly diminishing. My mum sent me to Sunday school because she felt the church offered a moral compass. That’s not the case now!
I remember a teenager from a non-church background attending youth evenings who became a Christian. The father thought this terrible, the brainwashing of a young person, and said he should be ‘out doing what other young people were doing’.
As the Church’s influence lessens, one thing we don’t need is to cling on to the vestiges of power. The early Church knew how this worked, a different, spiritual and prophetic power at work on the margins of society; Christ’s power made perfect in weakness. We see many new expressions of Church, and servant-hearted Christians making a difference in our culture, responding to people’s needs with understanding and grace.
Another big challenge is conformity. In Romans 12:1, Paul appeals to his readers: ‘Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.’ He warns not to ‘conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.’
Living in the midst of seismic change, I pray we will be true to our biblical DNA as Christ’s prophetic and counter-cultural community – resisting the temptation to compromise and capitulate to the spirit of the age, but be a confessing Church strong in biblical truth and in touch with our culture at every level.
Revd Greg Downes (@GregoryDownes) is Principal of the Centre for Missional Leadership and lectures in evangelism and apologetics. He is passionate about communicating in ways that are culturally relevant. Before ordination into the Church of England, Greg was a Head of RE. Since then, he has been a Curate, a senior prison chaplain, tutor at London School of Theology and chaplain to an Oxford college. Greg is theologian in residence at Christianity magazine and has recently agreed to be a theological consultant for us at CARE. He is married to Tamie, a GP and they have a young daughter.
Two years ago, the Government finally agreed to opt in to the EU Anti-Trafficking Directive after a sustained and public campaign. But as the deadline for implementation passes this weekend, the UK remains a long way from achieving full compliance with the Directive.
Since opting-in in 2011, the Government has made only a few legislative changes rather than taking this opportunity to make a real difference for the people that matter – the victims of trafficking. The Government is relying on existing laws and structures, claiming these fulfil the requirements of the Directive, but in many areas greater action is needed.
Victims of trafficking currently have no meaningful access to compensation and only limited access to legal assistance. Those who suffer labour exploitation are not guaranteed special treatment within the court system to protect them from re-living their experiences in front of their abusers. Children who are victims of trafficking are being failed by the current system of advocates and independent visitors, with many absconding from local authority care under pressure from their traffickers and so being exploited all over again.[i]
CARE’s Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation Policy Officer Louise Gleich said:
“We agree with the Government that ‘human trafficking is abhorrent’ which is why it is disappointing that the Government’s approach to implementing the Directive has been so lacklustre. Opting-in to the Directive was an important step – but words are not enough, making it a reality is what counts.
We urge the Government to implement the Directive in full, as we seek to make the UK a hostile place for traffickers to operate and where victims are supported in their recovery.”
Saturday 6 April is the deadline for the Government to comply with Directive 2011/36/EU on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims. The Directive requires Member States to ensure that (among other things):
Achieving compliance with the Directive is devolved in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Lord Morrow’s Bill in the Stormont Assembly will provide an opportunity for Northern Ireland to implement the Directive more fully than Westminster has thus far.