Mirvis: as­sisted dy­ing Bill is ‘dan­ger­ous’

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY SANDY RASHTY

CHIEF RABBI Ephraim Mirvis has con­demned a Bill which would al­low doc­tors to end the lives of ter­mi­nally ill pa­tients.

The As­sisted Dy­ing Bill, which was due to be de­bated in the House of Lords to­day, would per­mit lethal drugs to be ad­min­is­tered to people with less than six months to live.

Rabbi Mirvis said: “In the light of Jewish tra­di­tion, this Bill seems to me to be ir­re­spon­si­ble and dan­ger­ous. Life is a gift from God and it is not ours to cut short.

“The fo­cus of this ini­tia­tive is pro­foundly mis­guided. In­stead of pro­mot­ing as­sisted dy­ing we should be con­cen­trat­ing our at­ten­tions on as­sisted liv­ing.”

Rabbi Mirvis is one of 23 faith lead­ers who have signed an open let­ter against the Bill. Other sig­na­to­ries in­clude Arch­bishop of Can­ter­bury Justin Welby and Car­di­nal Vin­cent Ni­chols, the Catholic leader in Eng­land and Wales.

They de­scribed the prospec­tive leg­is­la­tion as a “grave er­ror — this is not the way for­ward for a com­pas­sion­ate and car­ing so­ci­ety”.

How­ever, Rabbi Laura Janner-Klaus­ner, the se­nior rabbi for Re­form Ju­daism, de­clined to sign the let­ter. She said: “If I put my view to this, it might take away from our rab­bis who have di­verse views on the is­sue. We are not go­ing to take a whip on this.”

The lat­est re­search shows that the ma­jor­ity of Jews, Angli­cans and Catholics sup­port as­sisted dy­ing, whereas Mus­lims, Bap­tists and Hin­dus are against it.

Pro­fes­sor Linda Wood­head, a so­ci­ol­o­gist at Lan­caster Univer­sity, com­mis­sioned a poll of 4,500 people last July, which showed that 70 per cent of the 162 Jews in the sam­ple said they were in favour of as­sisted dy­ing.

P r o f Wood­head said she be­lieved the fig­ure would have in­creased over the past 12 months. “The num­ber of people of faith who sup­port as­sisted dy­ing has cer­tainly got higher since then. Re­li­gious lead­ers seem to be out of touch,” she said.

But Re­form rabbi Jonathan Ro­main, the founder of the In­ter-Faith Lead­ers for Dig­nity in Dy­ing group, said he was sup­port­ing the Bill.

In this week’s JC, he writes: “This is dif­fi­cult ter­ri­tory, but it is re­li­giously ap­pro­pri­ate to try to nav­i­gate it. If there is a right to die well — or at least to die as well as pos­si­ble — it means hav­ing the op­tion of as­sisted dy­ing, whether or not it is taken up.”

‘Life is a gift from God and not ours to cut short’

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