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Patient(Assisted Dying) Bill

Last updated: 2003-06-04

The Chief Rabbi has made the following statement: opposing the Patient (Assisted Dying) Bill which receives its second reading in the House of Lords on Friday:

“Civilization depends on certain values being non-negotiable, perhaps the most important of which is human life itself.

In religious terms this is called the sanctity of life – the idea that life itself is a gift of God, and not ours to dispose of as we wish. But one does not have to be religious to trace the terrible impact of the concept of a “life not worth living”, that may be terminated at the will of the patient.

Too often in the past, the line has been blurred between voluntary and involuntary euthanasia, and even the most stringent safeguards cannot protect against psychological pressures, such as the feeling that one is a burden to family or friends or society. Human life is too precious to be subject to such risks, which is why the West has for the most part resisted calls to legalise euthanasia on any grounds.

Pain and suffering may be treated even if the consequence may be a shortening of life expectancy, but that is quite different from deliberately aiming at the termination of a life.

One of the critical tests of a society is how it protects the vulnerable, defends the defenceless and cares for those dependent on the care of others. No one should be put in a position of having to decide whether to live or die. To the contrary, each patient should be confident in the knowledge that, while everything will be done to minimise his or her suffering and pain, life itself will always be honoured and never willingly terminated.

For these reasons Jewish law prohibits patient assisted dying.”

For more information on the Chief Rabbi, visit www.chiefrabbi.org