If you want to turn your white sheet red, make sure you only put red dye in the water.

If you want to ensure that the evidence you collect fits the conclusions with which you started, select for your committee those who begin with the same assumptions and conclusions as yourself.

The Commission on Assisted Dying has done just that. We also knew its conclusions before the publication of its report this morning because it had been widely leaked. But, even if no leaks had dripped out, the conclusions would not have been a surprise.

Two challenges this morning: (a) Look at the constitution of the commission and use your imagination to work out how they came to the conclusions they did, and (b) spot the difference between the campaigning goals of Dignity in Dying and Falconer’s conclusions. This commission is only independent in so far as it was self-selected and self- established. Loads of groups and bodies involved in the debate refused to speak with them.

So, before giving their report too much credence, just imagine the credibility an ‘independent’ group of evangelical Christians would have been given if they had established a ‘commission on abortion’ and concluded they were against it?

Assisted dying is a hugely important (as well as contentious) ethical matter which demands serious debate on philosophical, theological, anthropological and pastoral grounds. But the presentation of this commission and its coverage in a sympathetic media needs a massive dose of caution. On any other subject it wouldn’t have been taken seriously.

Update: link to Church of England response.

Further update: good BMJ post offering wider view.