Wednesday, 16 July 2014

No to Assisted Suicide


In the UK an 'assisted suicide' law is coming before Parliament, introduced by Lord Falconer in the House of Lords. Without a doubt, I am firmly of the view  that this is against Jewish tradition , here are 3 good reasons- not the only ones of course- as to why I'm  against this proposal : 

1. Judaism places the preservation of life above practically very other Mitzovt; we are only to die, rather than transgress in 3 exceptional circumstances. We believe in life because all humanity is made in the image of our creator Gd and because of this we are not  free to dispose of our lives as we see it; it is up to the Almighty to decide when we leave this planet, indeed  as former Chief Rabbi  Lord Jakobovits once said, "The value of human life is infinite and beyond measure, so that any part of life - even if only an hour or a second - is of precisely the same worth as seventy years of it, just as any fraction of infinity, being indivisible, remains infinite".

2.  The Hebrew Bible seems to take a dim view of suicide. Note II Samuel  where the seriously injured King Saul orders a young soldier to kill him, rather than let him be captured alive. When King David heard what the young soldier had done, he had him executed, which to my mind shows that assisted suicide is equivalent to murder; even if the King himself (Saul) commanded him to do the deed. 

3. The slippery slope really is the slippery slope. This is a quote from Professor Theo Boer, who initially supported legalising assisted suicide in the Netherlands way back in 2002. Professor Boer admitted in a recently  that he was 'wrong- terribly wrong, in fact', going on to say : 

‘Whereas in the first years after 2002 hardly any patients with psychiatric illnesses or dementia appear in reports, these numbers are now sharply on the rise.‘Cases have been reported in which a large part of the suffering of those given euthanasia or assisted suicide consisted in being aged, lonely or bereaved.‘Some of these patients could have lived for years or decades. Pressure on doctors to conform to patients’ – or in some cases relatives’ – wishes can be intense.‘Pressure from relatives, in combination with a patient’s concern for their wellbeing, is in some cases an important factor behind a euthanasia request. Not even the review committees, despite hard and conscientious work, have been able to halt these developments.’
As this chart shows :

How the toll has risen: The Netherlands has seen deaths double in just six years

Now I've only covered this topic briefly and to provide a forum to discuss it in greater depth in the comments below. I appreciate that this is an emotive topic- the big ones always are- so please be respectful when in reply to others.



A coalition of Britain's faith leaders has issued and signed the following (signaturies below )

“As leaders of faith communities, we wish to state our joint response to Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill. We do so out of deep human concern that if enacted, this bill would have a serious detrimental effect on the wellbeing of individuals and on the nature and shape of our society. 
Every human life is of intrinsic value and ought to be affirmed and cherished. This is central to our laws and our social relationships; to undermine this in any way would be a grave error. The Assisted Dying Bill would allow individuals to participate actively in ending others’ lives, in effect colluding in the judgment that they are of no further value. This is not the way forward for a compassionate and caring society. 
Vulnerable individuals must be cared for and protected even if this calls for sacrifice on the part of others. Each year many thousands of elderly and vulnerable people suffer abuse; sadly, often at the hands of their families or carers. Being perceived as a burden or as a financial drain is a terrible affliction to bear, leading in many cases to passivity, depression and self-loathing. The desire to end one’s life may, at any stage of life, be prompted by depression or external pressure; any suggestion of a presumption that such a decision is ‘rational’ does not do justice to the facts. The Assisted Dying Bill can only add to the pressures that many vulnerable, terminally ill people will feel, placing them at increased risk of distress and coercion at a time when they most require love and support. 
A key consideration is whether the Assisted Dying Bill will place more vulnerable people at risk than it seeks to help. We have seen, in recent years that even rigorous regulation and careful monitoring have not prevented the most serious lapses of trust and care in some parts of the NHS and within a number of Care Homes. It is na├»ve to believe that, if assisted suicide were to be legalised, proposed safeguards would not similarly be breached with the most disastrous of consequences, by their nature irrevocable. 
The bill raises the issue of what sort of society we wish to become: one in which life is to be understood primarily in terms of its usefulness and individuals evaluated in terms of their utility or one in which every person is supported, protected and cherished even if, at times, they fail to cherish themselves. While we may have come to the position of opposing this bill from different religious perspectives, we are agreed that the Assisted Dying Bill invites the prospect of an erosion of carefully tuned values and practices that are essential for the future development of a society that respects and cares for all. Better access to high-quality palliative care, greater support for carers and enhanced end of life services will be among the hallmarks of a truly compassionate society and it is to those ends that our energies ought to be harnessed".
Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia, Chairman, Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha
Mr Yousif Al-Khoei, Director Al-Khoei Foundation
Rev Dr Martyn Atkins, General Secretary of the Methodist Church and Secretary of the Conference
Bishop Eric Brown, Administrative Bishop, New Testament Church of God
Mr Malcolm M Deboo, President, Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe
Rev Jonathan Edwards, Deputy Moderator Free Churches Group
Pastor John Glass, General Superintendent, Elim Pentecostal Churches
Revd David Grosch-Miller and Mr John Ellis, Moderators of the United Reformed Church General Assembly
Colonel David Hinton, Chief Secretary, The Salvation Army United Kingdom
Rev Stephen Keyworth, Faith and Society Team Leader, Baptist Union of Great Britain
Ayatollah Fazel Milani, Dean of the International Colleges of Islamic Studies
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth
Most Rev Dr Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales
His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster
Rev John Partington, National Leader, Assemblies of God
Mr Ramesh Pattni, Secretary General, Hindu Forum of Britain
Bishop Wilton Powell, National Overseer, Church of God of Prophecy
Maulana Shahid Raza OBE, Leicester Central Mosque, Leicester
Venerable Bogoda Seelawimala, Chief Sangha Nayake of Great Britain, London Buddhist Vihara
Dr Shuja Shafi, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain
Dr Natubhai Shah, Chairman/CEO Jain Network
Lord Indarjit Singh, Director Network of Sikh Organisations (UK)
Most Rev and Rt Hon Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury


  1. What should be obvious to people who are commenting saying the church should have no say is that the church actually has very little say indeed. Apart from a handful of votes in the Lords all that it does have is the right to make a case, just like any other group.

    There are a number on inconsistencies in the the Pro-euthanasia case (lets not mince words with the assisted dying phrasing. It is euthanasia and it is dishonest to call it anything else), not least that a great deal is made of the appeal to emotion of the Tony Nicklinson case, even though the proposed bill would not have affected the outcome of that case. Lord Carey himself protested it would be outrageous if assisted dying were extended to the disabled ad depressed, despite the very cases that persuaded him to change his mind falling into those categories. This shows that the current proposed limit of terminal patients with 6 months is simply a way of creating a slippery slope to the normalisation of euthanasia for all and for any reason.

    Secondly, much is made of the unbearable pain people are in, despite the fact that pain management is so good these days that no-one needs to suffer to that extent.

    Finally, the appeal to emotion and hard cases are no basis for making laws in a rational way, and it is pathetic that this is the level of the debate right now.

    The major problem however is that it easy to see that in a very short period of time social pressure will mount on the frail and sick to end their lives to avoid them being a burden on their families, and being unable to discuss these feelings with those families would leave them more open to feelings of isolation and depression. I don't see how this improves the situation for people who are already in need of the support and love of their families.

  2. Atheist Shrugged16 July 2014 at 15:54

    The "elephant in the room", so consummately ignored in this article, is that most christians want others to suffer rather than upset their imaginery friend. The priest who confirmed me (before I came to my senses) was quite clear about this - suicide was a sin, and anyone aiding a suicide was a murderer.

    I'm very happy for the reverend gentleman to decide that he wants to suffer - that's his decision. It's the concept that clerics have some sort of right to decide for everyone else too which appals me. To impose needless suffering on others to assuage your personal deity or deities is surely close to evil. I cannot really imagine how anyone would be so unpleasant as to do this, but countless christains do, of course, some of them in the House of Lords.

    I don't see why, if I decide I would rather end my life than suffer an undignified and painful end - and, to be truthful, in my case, dignity has a lot to do with it - I would be taking the decision “lightly, wantonly or unadvisedly” (as Rev. Jones has it). To suggest that this is the case is just to add insult to injury, surely?

    I am very happy for christians, muslims, jews, pagans, whirling dervishes and zoroastrians to live their lives as their god or gods "instruct" them. I just don't want their god or gods instructing me too.

  3. Atheist Shrugged16 July 2014 at 15:55

    The Jewish position on this issue is, like that of other religious groups, of no real relevance to proper debate. The view of religions is based on their reading the runes of ancient texts describing the history of desert tribes over two thousand years ago. What is required is scientific debate and to listen to the experiences of individuals and their families who are affected by the current laws.

  4. Agree with this article. I am against the legislation. We will have logan's run in the near future.

  5. What is wonderful about your post is the paradox, first you want science to decide this issue, next you say you want to listen to individuals affected, who are going to be, understandably, not have a scientific outlook.

  6. 'Logan's run' is a very interesting analogy !

  7. We are allowed a say just like anyone else, in the market place of ideas.

  8. No we don't want people to suffer for G-d. It is permissive in Jewish law for someone's suffering to end; you just can't kill people to do so, this is up to G-d to decide.

  9. Dominique Vasilkovsky18 July 2014 at 16:41

    I'm totally against this, so thanks for writing a thread about it! (:


Comments aren't pre-moderated. Try and keep things civil. See our comments section for further details.