The Director of Public Prosecutions is calling on Jewish communities across England and Wales to give their views on his interim policy on assisted suicide.
Keir Starmer, who leads the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), has published the factors he takes into account when deciding whether or not to allow prosecutions for assisted suicide.
Mr Starmer said: “I am keen for as many people as possible to take part in this debate, including Jewish communities throughout England and Wales.
“I recognise how sensitive this area of law is and I respect the fact that there are many people who hold strong views on assisted suicide.
“I want to hear those views and that is why I have launched a public consultation. By considering as many opinions as possible, I can produce a final policy which is true to both the law and public feeling.”
Assisting suicide has been a criminal offence in the UK for nearly 50 years, and Mr Starmer said his policy did nothing to change that.
He said: “I also want to make it perfectly clear that this policy does not, in any way, permit euthanasia. The taking of life by another person is murder or manslaughter — which are among the most serious criminal offences.”
Anyone who wishes to view the policy and complete the consultation document can visit www.cps.gov.uk or write to the Assisted Suicide Policy Team, Crown Prosecution Service Headquarters, Sixth Floor, 50 Ludgate Hill, London, EC4M 7EX.
The closing date for responses is December 16 and the finalised policy will be issued in Spring 2010.
Rabbi Barry Marcus of the Central Synagogue said: “Were we to be asked, our attitude would be that we are mindful of and not totally insensitive to a situation that could bring a person to take their own life — or help someone else to do so. But the overall Jewish view is of the importance of the sanctity of life and its preservation.”