Representatives of the Abrahamic religions on Monday issued a position paper which they signed and released in the Vatican, stating: “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 person behind the declaration initiative is Rabbi Avraham Steinberg of Israel who proposed the idea to Pope Francis, who in turn entrusted it to the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life.
Rabbi Steinberg is a medical ethicist, pediatric neurologist, and editor of Talmudic literature. He chairs the National Israeli Committee for Evaluation of Living Organ Donors; the National Advisory Committee to the Minister of Health for Enacting a Law Concerning the Terminally Ill; and the National Ethics Committee in Accordance with the Dying Patient Act; and the National Committee in Accordance with the Brain Death Act.
To date, 32 countries permit some form of euthanasia, including majority-Catholic states (Argentina, Belgium, Chile, Colombia, France, Ireland, Peru, Portugal, Spain, and Uruguay).
The Israeli Penal Law forbids causing the death of another and specifically forbids shortening the life of another. Active euthanasia is forbidden by both Israeli law and Jewish law. There are indications in the Talmud, however, that indirect euthanasia may be tacitly accepted by Jewish law, and it also appears that the Israeli courts are moving towards allowing euthanasia in the spirit of Basic Law: The Dignity and Freedom of Man. Proposals were put forward to allow passive euthanasia to be administered using a mechanism similar to a Shabbat clock, which, as in the case of turning the electricity on and of, absolves the user of direct responsibility.
They assembled clergy categorically condemned any pressure on dying patients to end their lives by active and deliberate actions. They wrote: “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.”
“Holistic and respectful care of the person,” they said, “must recognize the uniquely human, spiritual and religious dimension of dying as a fundamental objective.”