Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has said the proposed Assisted Dying Bill would do more harm than good, in a letter jointly signed with other faith leaders.
Together with Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, Mirvis said the Bill “would put at risk many more vulnerable people than it seeks to help”.
The law, proposed by Lord Falconer and due to be debated in parliament this month, would allow terminally ill but mentally competent adults to request life-ending medication from a doctor. The dying patient would then have the choice to self-administer that medication at a time of their choosing.
In the letter signed by Mirvis and published in The Observer this weekend, the chief rabbi argues that it could be the start of a slippery slope, whereby people felt that they should choose to kill themselves.
“It has the potential to have a significant impact on other vulnerable individuals, those who believe that they have become burdens to family and carers and feel under pressure within themselves to ‘do the decent thing,’” said the signatories.
“Some 500,000 elderly people are abused each year, most by family members, often for financial reasons. Many of these would also be vulnerable to pressure to end their lives prematurely.”
Some privately back the bill, with one prominent London rabbi saying that when he brought this up with shul members, he found he was “pushing at an open door”. Others, including progressive rabbis, have backed the right of the terminally ill to request help to die, with Reform Rabbi Jonathan Romain saying: “We believe in the sanctity of life but not the sanctity of suffering.”