Give terminally-ill right to die, says rabbi

People with terminal illnesses should be helped to die if they do not want to go on living, according to the chief executive of Liberal Judaism.

Rabbi Danny Rich made the case when he gave evidence last week to the independent Commission on Assisted Dying, chaired by the former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer.

Rabbi Rich said: "It is morally defensible for an individual of sound mind to declare that the quality of his or her life is no longer worth the struggle. And that such a person may expect those who care - either personally or professionally - for him or her to assist in the process, and, subject to appropriate safeguards, those who assist should not face criminal prosecution.

"The truth is that humanity has never lived in an ideal world and, thus, we face trying to arbitrate between two rights: to live without being pressured into dying and to have the choice of when to die."

There were both legal and medical definitions of when a person was able to give consent, he said.

"It goes without saying that, if someone is unable to consent, it cannot be right that another person would say that the first individual's life is not worth living."

The Jewish peer Lord Joffe has repeatedly attempted to introduce legislation that would allow assisted dying in certain circumstances.

But the Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks has consistently opposed the prospect, arguing four years ago that "there are some choices we should not be allowed to make, and of these the most fateful is to decide that a life is not worth living".

    Last updated: 3:35pm, January 27 2011