The majority of the island’s Christian churches have hit out at plans to legalise assisted dying.
They also say that a public consultation into the issue was biased.
Churches Alive in Mann – a group consisting of the Church of England, Methodist Church, Roman Catholic Church, United Reformed Church, Living Hope, Broadway Baptist Church, Elim Onchan, Elim Peel, Elim Ramsey and The Salvation Army – this week issued a statement about the proposal.
The organisation’s spokesman, Bill Leishman, a minister of the Broadway Baptist Church, said: ‘We (Churches Alive in Mann) think that the report felt quite skewed and unbalanced in terms of responses to the consultation.
‘What the consultation data showed was that it was almost an exact 50/50 split, in fact there were slightly more against the bill than for.’
Out of the 3,326 responses to the survey, 1,650 people (49.61%) were against the bill, 1,630 (49.01%) people supported the bill, 36 (1.08%) were not sure and 10 (0.3%) refused to answer that question.
Rev Leishman continued: ‘Looking through the report, it became clear that the analysis of the consultation was a lot more in favour of the bill than against it so I did analysis on it and we found that it was quite a large level of bias and we were concerned about that.’
Churches Alive in Mann released its own study into the statistics behind the report.
The group’s report claims that 10 organisations outside the island were quoted in the report as in favour of the bill while one organisation was quoted as against the bill.
Churches Alive in Mann took part in the consultation, opposing a change in the legislation.
Rev Leishman said: ‘We think that there is quite a lot of danger in what Dr Allinson is proposing and we are concerned about the decisions being made on the basis of inaccurate information.
‘Statistically, we went through it in terms of word count and split it out in terms of the number of words that were in favour, against and neutral to the argument.’
The ‘neutral’ words referred to were the explanatory information, such as the questions and explanation of the issue the question dealt with.
Churches Alive in Mann’s analysis says that 38% of the report’s word count was in favour of the argument, 25% was against the argument and 37% of the words were ‘neutral’ or explanatory.
Of the 3,326 responses to the consultation, 2,728 of them went on to explain the reasons behind the decision.
One respondent said: ‘I believe that an individual should have the right to conscientiously choose to end their life if certain events occur, which are outside of their control, for instance traumatic brain injury, MND, auto immune encephalitis etc.’
Another said: ‘I completely disagree with assisted dying in the Isle of Man and hope that the bill will be thrown out like the previous times.
‘It would be a disaster for such a small community and open to abuse.’
The collective of churches has published a document outlining their findings and also the reasons that they are opposed to the idea of assisted dying in the Isle of Man.
A statement from the Churches Alive in Mann group said: ‘We think it’s unfortunate that the report does not reflect the opinions in the consultation.
‘The report’s bias is alarming given that a proportion of vulnerable or elderly people are known to suffer every day from physical, emotional or financial abuse; the changes advocated in the report could result in coercion that would be, at times, impossible to spot.
‘Even among people not subjected to abuse, the existence of the proposed law would end up leading some people to conclude, not only that they could, but that they should end their lives to relieve burden on others.
‘It could also lead us into great danger concerning suicide as in our caring Manx society, many people work hard to help suicidal people find reasons to go on living.
‘The assisted dying legislation advocated in the report would undermine this good work and send a very damaging message to depressed and suicidal people.’
The Churches Alive in Mann’s website cites a number of sources of information for people to refer to, including their one-hour talk about the argument against assisted dying hosted by Reverend Bill Leishman and Dr Graham McAll, a retired GP and a current clergy official according to the diocese of Sodor and Mann.
The group has also organised further talks with the public about the issue.
These talks are on Tuesday, May 16, at 7pm in the lecture theatre in Keyll Darree, Strang and Wednesday, May 17, at 7pm in the Mountain View innovation centre in Ramsey.