The case for

The case against

Public opinion

Medical opinion

Holland

Living wills

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Religion

Many of the arguments made against assisted dying come from a religious basis. The main source of this religious opposition comes from the Jewish-Christian religions. Out of these, the Roman Catholic Church is the strongest opponent. Islamic and Buddhist faiths also do not agree with euthanasia. The Sikh Darma and Hindu faiths have not taken an official position, and may leave it up to the individual. However, there are individuals within these religions, including ordinary believers and priests, who fully support voluntary euthanasia.

In a 1993 opinion poll carried out for the VES by NOP, most religious people who were surveyed were in favour of medical aid in dying. Whilst 93% of people without religious belief supported this, 83% of Protestants, 73% of Roman Catholics and 60% of Jews were also in favour.

There are three basic arguments Jewish and Christian authorities make against helping a person to die.

1. 'Sanctity of Life'
According to religious teaching, life is a gift from God. Only God can decide when a life begins and ends. Any deliberate killing of the innocent without God's authority is wrong, and against the natural law. This extends to situations where a person's life is ended at their request. Voluntary euthanasia breaks this principle — people do not have the right to choose for themselves.

2. Intentional killing is forbidden
The Sixth Commandment states that 'thou shalt not kill'. However, this has never been an absolute prohibition. In certain circumstances the church allows killing — in war, by capital punishment and in self-defence. Some argue that 'thou shalt not kill' is not an accurate translation of the original Hebrew, and that it really means 'thou shalt not murder'. However, whatever the translation, church authorities traditionally believe that voluntary euthanasia is against this Commandment.

3. The value of human suffering
According to Christian teaching, physical suffering is part of God's divine plan for humankind. Suffering has a spiritual significance, and should be faced head-on, in the knowledge that it leads to a growth in virtue and helps in redemption. So, voluntary euthanasia, as a means of ending the suffering of an incurably ill patient, is rejected. Many have attacked this belief for being cruel and outdated.

None of the religious arguments against assisted dying are relevant to those who do not share those beliefs. And of course, despite these teachings, many of those who are religious do not oppose voluntary euthanasia either. In fact, many of those who support assisted dying do so because of their religious beliefs. To them, helping a person to die can be an expression of Christian compassion and the love and support that Christians offer to those in need.

Supportive quotes

"As I understand it, the purpose of life is to love God and to enjoy Him forever. I believe that voluntary euthanasia can be a means to that end."
The late Rev. Lord Soper, a prominent Methodist minister

"I sincerely believe that those who come after us will wonder why on earth we kept a human being alive against his will, when all the dignity, beauty and meaning of life had vanished; when any gain to anyone was clearly impossible, and when we should have been punished by the state if we had kept alive an animal in similar conditions."
The late Rev. Dr Leslie Weatherhead, a Methodist

"...as a Christian and a theologian I am convinced that the all-merciful God, who has given men and women freedom and responsibility for their lives, has also left to dying people the responsibility for making a conscientious decision about the manner and time of their deaths."
Hans Kung, Professor of Theology