The right to live one’s life to the very end does not imply the religious obligation to do so, especially if that end is a travestyby Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain / July 17, 2017 / Leave a comment
It will come as a shock to many readers that numerous vicars and rabbis are supporting the case of Noel Conway. The terminally ill former social sciences lecturer has motor neurone disease and is appealing to the High Court this week for permission to have an assisted death.
This would involve a doctor giving him a medical potion that he could take to end his life before the inevitable suffering became unbearable.
At present, though, this is illegal—and the doctor would be liable to prosecution.
Under the current law, Noel’s options are all bad ones: he could either try to commit suicide (with the risk of botching it up), carry on (and face increasing pain), or go to Dignitas in Switzerland (but this would involve considerable expense and discomfort, as well as dying abroad).
It is true that both the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Chief Rabbi have come out strongly against allowing assisted dying, but there are a growing number of religious voices who think it can be appropriate in certain circumstances. We have banded together to form an inter-faith group of clergy in favour of assisted dying (IFDiD).
Why are faith leaders changing their minds?
The change is because the two traditional objections are now crumbling.
The first of these objections was pastoral, based on concerns that abuse could take place if a change in the law is enacted. This might include attempts by unscrupulous families to dispatch an elderly relative who is becoming a burden to them—or a rich one whose fortune they want to inherit as soon as possible.
But potential abuses should not be a block to helping deserving cases. The answer, instead, is to put safeguards in place that can protect a positive approach.
These are entrenched in the series of conditions put forward by the campaigning organisation, Dignity in Dying, all of which would need to be fulfilled before assisted dying was permitted. These rules stipulate that it would only be for those who are terminally ill (verified by two independent doctors), who are suffering unbearably, who are mentally competent, who request it (verified by two independent witnesses who are not beneficiaries)—and that the patient could change their mind at any point.