As assisted suicide spreads throughout the world, religious leaders are taking a stand. In a meeting at Vatican City, leaders from the three Abrahamic monotheistic religions — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — gathered to sign a declaration condemning the practice, and urging for greater palliative care options to be put into place instead. Representatives from the Vatican, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the Patriarchate of Moscow and All Russia, and Muslim and Jewish scholars and leaders were present, or expressed their support.
Signees, who included David Rosen for the American Jewish Committee, Vincenzo Paglia for the Vatican, a representative for the Orthodox Church, and Samsul Anwar from the Indonesian Muhammadiyah (an Islamic social and cultural association), all agreed that assisted suicide poses a threat to inherent human dignity. Others sent letters of support. The idea was the brainchild of Avraham Steinberg, co-president of the Israeli National Council on Bioethics, according to the Times of Israel. “I think it’s by itself an historic event that the three major religions come together, talk to each other, agree on something and even sign on it,” he said at a press conference.
“We oppose any form of euthanasia – that is the direct, deliberate and intentional act of taking life – as well as physician-assisted suicide – that is the direct, deliberate and intentional support of committing suicide – because they fundamentally contradict the inalienable value of human life, and therefore are inherently and consequentially morally and religiously wrong, and should be forbidden without exceptions,” the document read. “Care for the dying, is both part of our stewardship of the Divine gift of life when a cure is no longer possible, as well as our human and ethical responsibility toward the dying (and often) suffering patient.”
Instead of helping people to die, the document asserts that “we are morally and religiously duty-bound to provide comfort, effective pain and symptoms relief, companionship, care and spiritual assistance to the dying patient and to her/his family.”
The document, which is almost 2,000 words long, demanded that physicians not participate in coercing, pressuring or assisting a patient’s suicide, called for greater palliative care options for the dying, and said laws are needed to protect the rights and the dignity of all people. It also noted that the three religions “share common goals and are in complete agreement in their approach to end-of-life situations,” which sometimes are in conflict with “current secular humanistic values and practices.”
Assisted suicide is being legalized more and more often in countries across the world, and while it is framed as a way for the dying to have death with “dignity,” the reality is quite different. Instead, the vulnerable — such as the elderly and the disabled — are often targeted, manipulated, and scared into thinking death is their best and only choice.
“To take the initiative to shorten a person’s life is murder,” Rabbi Eliezer Simcha Weiss, who represents the Chief Rabbinate, told the Jerusalem Post, adding, “It was remarkable that representatives of the three major monotheistic groups were able to come together around the idea that we are all created in the image of God, and cannot take a life. People must realize that there is a glimmer of light that religions who have been warring together have found common ground and that is in the sanctity of human life. A person who saves a life saves an entire world, and a person who destroys a life destroys an entire world.”
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