A seminar organised by Inter-Faith Leaders for Dignity in Dying (IFDiD) was held at Union Chapel in Islington on Monday 20th of May.
The seminar was a discussion of the religious reasons for supporting Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill for terminally ill mentally competent adults.
The long-held assumption that all religious people are against assisted dying is misleading. There are many who are both committed worshippers and believe strongly that assisted dying should be an option for those who want that choice.
Faith Leaders come out in support of the Assisted Dying Bill
During the seminar a number of faith leaders, including the Most Reverend Lazar Puhalo, retired Archbishop of Ottawa, Canon Rosie Harper of the Church of England, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, Reverend Professor Paul Badham and Methodist Minister Reverend Baroness Kathleen Richardson, expressed their support for Lord Falconer’s parliamentary attempt to change the law.
The Most Reverend Lazar Puhalo, retired Archbishop of Ottawa:
Assisted dying is different to assisted suicide because assisted suicide implies killing people who have the choice to live, whereas assisted dying will help those who are going to die anyway but would otherwise have to go through lots of pain and suffering to get there.
When a dying person is suffering intolerably then everything must be done to help.
Professor Paul Badham:
Jesus taught that the whole of religious law could be summed up by saying that we should love our neighbour as ourselves. His golden rule was that we should always treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves
A landmark moment
Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, IFDiD coordinator, described the seminar as a landmark event, as it was the first time that those from a religious background have entered the debate on assisted dying in a positive way.
I have been incredibly encouraged by today’s debate. This seminar provided an important opportunity for people with faith to explore the issues of assisted dying in a safe and non-judgemental environment.
I am confident that Inter Faith Leaders for Dignity in Dying (IFDiD) can usefully support the progress of Lord Falconer’s Bill through the House of Lords, and continue to explore and develop the crucial role of faith leaders in a country which allows the choice of assisted dying.
The religious general public support assisted dying
Findings tell us that those who actively participate in a Church or Religious group, rather than simply identifying with a religion support assisted dying:
- A YouGov survey commissioned by IFDiD found that 62% of people who identified as belonging to a religion supported the legalisation of assisted dying for terminally ill adults with mental capacity. Only 18% were opposed. 
- 78% of those who attended a place of worship once a month supported assisted dying. 59% of those who attended several times a month supported assisted dying. 
- 71% of religious people agreed that a doctor should probably or definitely be allowed to end the life of a patient with a painful, incurable disease at the patients request. 
This support is in contrast to the many religious leaders who claim to represent their views.
If you are a faith leader you can join IFDiD by contacting us at the following address:
1 YouGov survey, commissioned by IFDiD 2013
2 YouGov survey, commissioned for the Westminster Faith Debate 2013
3 McAndrew S (2010) Religious faith and contemporary attitudes, in Park A, Curtice J, Thomson K, Phillips A, Clery E, Butt S (eds) British Social Attitudes: 2009-2010. The 26th Report London, Sage: 87-113