The Catholic Church across Yorkshire's historic West Riding since 1878

The Catholic Church across Yorkshire's historic West Riding since 1878

Where there is Life there is Hope: a Catholic perspective from the Anscombe Bioethics Centre

On World Suicide Prevention Day (Sunday 10 September 2023) Catholic Bioethics experts at the Anscombe Bioethics Centre drew public attention to important research on the link between ‘assisted suicide’ and suicide rates in general.

Dr Anne Doherty, Associate Professor and consultant on Psychiatry at Mater Misericordiae University Hospital in Dublin and her co-author, Anscombe Centre Director, Professor David Albert Jones, collaborated on an important paper published last year about the relationship between euthanasia and assisted suicide (EAS) and rates of (‘non-assisted’) suicide more broadly, as an important contribution to discussions on the dangers of legalising physician involvement in enabling or causing the death of their patients.

Follow the link to see Dr Doherty being interviewed in 2022 by her colleague Professor Patricia Casey on her findings.

This interview was first shown live at ‘Suicide Prevention and Assisted Suicide: Legal, Clinical and Ethical Perspectives’, a Conference held in Oxford one year ago in which the empirical evidence concerning this connection was particularly examined.

The issue of the connection between EAS and suicide rates had also been highlighted in a briefing paper by Professor Jones earlier that year, one of a series of briefing papers on assisted suicide or euthanasia which the Anscombe Centre has been publishing since 2021.

Speaking on World Suicide Prevention Day itself, Professor David Albert Jones, Director of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre, said:

‘We all have times of great stress; hearing news we have dreaded hearing is one of these. But it is encouraging how many come through their challenges and find some way to make the best of the time they (and we each) have left. Even in the worst of times most people find a way through, and we need to find ways to support each person in achieving this. Where there is life there is hope.’

During 2022, research by the Anscombe Centre revealed data showing that in countries which have introduced voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide into law and medical practice:
• No reduction exists in non-assisted suicide relative to the most similar neighbouring non-EAS country;
• EAS is followed by considerable increases in suicide (inclusive of assisted suicide and euthanasia);
• In some EAS countries, there is a relative and/or an absolute increase in non-assisted suicide;
• Data from both Europe and from the U.S. indicate that women have been placed most at risk of avoidable premature death by EAS.
This evidence suggests that so far from the introduction of EAS reducing suicides (as has often been claimed), it is actually associated with greater incidence of premature death – particularly amongst women – raising raise serious and concerning questions about the effect of assisted suicide and euthanasia on society’s commitment to and strategy for suicide prevention.
The need for an institute to provide a Catholic perspective on Bioethics was first raised in 1970 by former Bishop of Leeds, John Carmel, Cardinal Heenan. The present Anscombe Bioethics Centre is the inheritor of that initiative. Now based in Oxford the Centre is named after the late Catholic philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe, who was associated with our diocese as wife and collaborator of Peter Geach (Professor of Logic and Moral Philosophy at Leeds University between 1966 and 1981).