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Dr Peter Saunders

Pro-euthanasia lobby gathers group of religious leaders to support its campaign

Dr Peter Saunders is CMF Chief Executive and was formerly a general surgeon. He also serves on the boards of the International Christian Medical and Dental Association and Coalition for Marriage and is campaign director for the Care Not Killing Alliance.


The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of CMF.

I see that Dignity in Dying (the former Voluntary Euthanasia Society), which campaigns for the legalisation of assisted suicide for mentally competent people with less than a year to live, has set up a new group with the innovative title ‘Interfaith Leaders for Dignity in Dying’.

The arrival of the group was announced earlier this week in a small article in the Times (£) as follows:

‘An alliance of Jewish and Christian leaders who favour changing the law to allow assisted dying in particular circumstances was formed last week. The InterFaith Leaders for Dignity in Dying (IFDiD) group plans to specify the situations in which assisted dying might be justified, to devise rituals for those opting for an assisted death, and to compose guidelines for the before-and after-death pastoral care of those who have an assisted death and for the care of their families.’

Well, the ‘after-death pastoral care of those who have an assisted death’ is certainly an innovative concept!

According to the Huffington Post, the new group wants ‘to change the portrayal of religion as being anti-assisted suicide’.

Rabbi Jonathan Romain, of Maidenhead Reform Synagogue and co-ordinator, says that they are arguing for a position on assisted suicide that is ‘a bit more nuanced’.

Currently the group boasts 52 members, mainly Christian and Jewish ministers, but Romain said they are ‘actively seeking ordained members of other faiths, including imams’.

Given that there are 47,000 churches, 1,700 mosques and over 400 synagogues in the UK they have a fair way to go.

The group plans to publish ‘a compilation of religious texts on assisted dying’ and provide ‘theological guidelines’ for looking after those suffering and their families before and after death.

In 2010 DiD was also onhealthy inderal instrumental in setting up Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying (HPAD) (see here) to push similarly for the legalisation of assisted suicide. This group has about 520 members (a figure representing about 0.25% of the country’s estimated 200,000 doctors).

Lord Falconer’s so-called ‘Independent Commission on Assisted Dying’, which was set up to pave the way for a new bill, was stacked full of euthanasia sympathisers, and received a similarly muted response when it held its ‘consultation’ last year.

About 46 individuals and 40 organisations who were invited to give evidence to this commission refused to do so largely due to concerns about bias.

As a result the commission ran out of ‘witnesses’ half way through last year after DID had encouraged its members to send in their own ‘evidence’.

By contrast a balanced House of Lords Select Committee carried out an official parliamentary Inquiry into assisted suicide in 2005. This covered some 246 Hansard columns and two volumes of 744 pages and 116 pages respectively; 2,460 questions were asked and the committee received 14,000 letters.

Romain’s new group of ‘religious leaders’ may well attract some interest from the liberal press, but they are unlikely to convince anyone who does not already share their views.

In 2005 nine prominent leaders of the six main world faith groups (Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Buddhists and Hindus) signed an open letter to all MPs and Peers in which they opposed the legalisation of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Their letter, which represents what the vast majority of faith leaders actually believe about these issues, is far more worthy of study than the maverick theology of IFDiD.

Posted by Dr Peter Saunders
CMF Chief Executive

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