Synod meeting discusses voluntary assisted dying

7 Jun 2021 by Jonathan Foye in: Latest News

At the Synod meeting (5 June) members have discussed the issue of Voluntary Assisted Dying.

Moderator Rev. Simon Hansford noted that he had convened a working group, led by Rev. Dr Chris Budden, to research the subject and consult with Synod members.

“We’re presenting this paper because this is an issue which engages and affects…people in our community and thus, in the church,” Rev. Hansford said.

When that process began, there was no legislation before the NSW Parliament. However, NSW Parliament is now expected to once again debate Voluntary Assisted Dying later this year.

“What started as being ahead of the game has slipped slightly,” Rev. Hansford said.

In the months ahead, the Synod will engage in discussions on the topic, across a number of different fora.

“This is more than a single issue,” Rev. Hansford said.

“This is about how we understand the value of human life, especially those who are not like us, whatever that means, in whatever context we live.”

“It’s about listening to voices of our first nations people and people who are culturally and linguistically diverse.”

He flagged consultations with theologians, ethicists, medical professionals, and scientists.

“This is not just an in-house conversation”

“This is about how we speak into…the wider community.”

“This is an opportunity to tend to our faith and to our theology.”

Members broke into ‘community groups’ for the discussion. As Moderator Rev. Simon Hansford indicated, these are distinct to discernment groups, as they are randomised and limited to six people. Chaplains were available.

Group discussion centred on three questions:

  1. Why and how does this issue matter for those who seek to live a Christian life?
  2. What sort of principles would the church wish to be in the legislation?
  3. How could Uniting or other agencies offer support to people who make a decision to end their life?

According to the discussion paper, the working group was,”[N]ot asking the Synod to make any decision either for or against” Voluntary Assisted Dying.”

“Our position is well reflected in the decision of the 2020 WA Synod: 3. (a) Acknowledges again that within the Church there is a diversity of faithful Christian understandings and responses to dying and to ‘voluntary assisted dying’ and we seek to live respectfully together in that tension; (b) Encourages its ministry agents, members and agencies to respect the freedom of people to hold different views with regard to the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act (WA) 2019 – ranging from conscientious objection to active endorsement. (Minute 26/2020).”

Uniting will speak to a later session of Synod about policies and practices. The issue of principles in legislation will be dealt with in August

Voluntary Assisted Dying legislation allows for medical staff to help terminally ill patients end their lives.

Legislation has already been adopted in Victoria and Western Australia. The laws place limits on when someone can be assisted in ending their own life, and require the person’s expressed consent.

Synod will next meet on Wednesday, 4 August and Saturday, 7 August. Insights will have full coverage.