Life is not ours to cut short, says Chief, but Progressives back assisted dying

November 24, 2016 23:28

One of the strongest advocates for assisted dying is the Jewish human rights lawyer Lord Joffe, who has made repeated attempts to win parliamentary approval for it.

But when the former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer introduced a bill last year that would have allowed doctors to supply lethal drugs to someone given less than six months to live, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis joined the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the head of the Catholic Church in England, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, in opposing it.

From the perspective of Jewish tradition, the bill seemed "irresponsible and dangerous", Rabbi Mirvis said. "Life is a gift from God and it is not ours to cut short. Instead of promoting assisted dying we should be concentrating our attentions on assisted living."

His position echoed that of his predecessor Lord Sacks, who stated that there were "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".

Assisted dying, however, has found support among some Progressive rabbis, although neither the Reform or Liberal movements have so far collectively endorsed it. When an audience composed of members of two of London's largest non-Orthodox communities, the Liberal Jewish Synagogue and North-Western Reform (Alyth), debated the subject last year, 80 per cent were in favour.

Liberal chief executive Rabbi Danny Rich told a parliamentary commission last year that it was "morally defensible for an individual of sound mind to declare that the quality of his or her life is no longer worth the struggle".

Maidenhead Reform Synagogue's Rabbi Jonathan Romain said this week that Jeffrey Spector's case highlighted the need for a new law, "so that those who are terminally ill and facing the prospect of suffering in their last few months can have the legal option to avoid it in this country, rather than having to go abroad".

November 24, 2016 23:28

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