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Religious Leaders Support Assisted Dying

Recently, religious leaders from different faiths have been engaging in debates around assisted dying.

We’ve known for a while that the majority of religious people in the UK support our campaign. The 2010 British Social Attitudes Survey found that 71% of religious people are supportive of assisted dying.

Despite this, up until now religious leaders have generally been opposed. It’s good to see that some opinions are beginning to change.

Rigour of safeguards convinces religious leaders

Although initially worried that a change in the law could put the vulnerable at risk, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE has been convinced by the rigour of the safeguards having seen the work of the Commission on Assisted Dying and the draft Bill ‘Safeguarding Choice’ drafted by the APPG on Choice at the End of Life and Dignity in Dying.

Writing to The Times, in response to their article about the draft Assisted Dying BiIl due to be tabled by Lord Falconer in the House of Lords later this year, Rabbi Romain said:

“Until now, religious groups have been opposed to it. However, there is a growing number whose faith impels them to support such a move in circumstances where the person is terminally ill, in great pain and requests the right to die.”

“An alliance of ministers of all faiths has therefore been formed to support the Falconer Bill, subject to strict safeguards (such as that it is only for those who are mentally competent and free from any coercion).”

“It may be extraordinarily difficult territory, but it is religiously appropriate to try to navigate it.”

Dr Romain is co-ordinator of the Inter-Faith Leaders for Dignity in Dying , a group formed to change the portrayal of religion as being anti-assisted dying, even when a person is in a great deal of suffering.

The Christian argument for assisted dying

Speaking to the BBC prior to a theological debate to be held in Glasgow, Reverend Scott McKenna, a minister from Edinburgh, spoke out in support of the forthcoming assisted dying Bill, due to be introduced in the Scottish Parliament by Independent MSP Margo MacDonald. Reverend McKenna believes assisted dying does not contravene Christian teaching, he said:

“The Church is very keen not to do harm, and that’s reasonable. But the truth is that by prolonging agony, we are doing harm.

“From a Christian perspective, Jesus embodies compassion, and he taught that there is not a single religious rule that is more important than meeting human need and suffering.

“I think the Church needs a new ethic, a new Scriptural ethic and a contemporary ethic. I think it’s looking backwards rather than looking at the 21st Century.”

Welcome Support

The fact that religious leaders are engaging in these debates is very encouraging.

As the draft bill scheduled for this summer draws closer, we welcome the large amount of support a possible change in the law is attracting from all areas of society.

To find out how you can help make 2013 the year for change read James’ blog post