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Former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey to support legalisation of right to die for cases like Tony Nicklinson

By Bess Browning

The former Archbishop of Canterbury has publicly expressed his support for the right to die campaign, despite an opposing view of the current Archbishop.

Lord George Carey, who was Archbishop from 1991 to 2002, has said that it would not be "anti-Christian" to change the law on assisted dying for the terminally ill.

His announcement comes just days before the bill to legalise assisted dying will be discussed in the House of Lords.

Lord George Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury

Under the new bill, tabled by Labour peer Lord Falconer, terminally ill adults from England and Wales would legally be able to receive help to end their own lives.

The right to die campaign has always been opposed by the Church of England bishops sitting in the Lords and the current Archbishop Justin Welby says that there has been an alarming rise in assisted deaths where it has been legalised.

He adds that the bill is "mistaken and dangerous" and that if the change in law was agreed, many elderly people would be "put under pressure to end their lives if assisted suicide were permitted by law".

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

But Lord Carey wrote in the Daily Mail that he has decided to support the bill "in the face of reality of needless suffering" and in the wake of cases such as Tony Nicklinson.

Mr Nicklinson, who suffered from locked-in syndrome, campaigned for years for the right to die until he died two years ago.

Lord Carey said Mr Nickinson's case had exerted the "deepest influence" on him.

He said: "His distress made me question my motives in previous debates. Had i been putting doctrine before compassion, dogma before human dignity?"

Tony Nicklinson with his wife Jane. Picture: SWNS.COM

Under the new law, the person would have to be able to prove their mental capacity to make an uninfluenced decision to end their lives.

Two doctors would have to confirm that the individual was terminally ill and assess the patient before a decision was made.

The change in law would not legalise assisted suicide and Lord Carey emphasized that he was not in support of assisted suicide and euthanasia.

The bill will be discussed in the House of Lords on Friday where already 110 peers are listed to speak.

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