Formerly known as Christians Supporting Choice for Voluntary Euthanasia

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Annual Newsletter and Update April 2023

In this 2022/2023 Newsletter we celebrate the passing of Voluntary Assisted Dying Legislation in every Australian State with New South Wales, the final state passing their VAD bill in May 2022. Importantly, as I write this letter the VAD legislation is now active in 5 states with NSW set to join them 28th Nov 2023. Time and again people report the peace of mind that getting the green light to access VAD gives them. Family often describe the passing of their loved one as peaceful and even beautiful.

Photo: DWD NSW

Persistent lobbying by state Dying with Dignity Groups, Andrew Denton (listen to this excellent interview and his Go Gentle Australia team, along with our group, and individuals,culminated in this incredible progress, in the last five years.My late friend and mentor Rev. Trevor Bensch would have been delighted at this progress – something that we have been working for since we co-founded the group in February 2009. I sincerely thank all members of our group who contacted MP’s, wrote letters, signed petitions, made donations etc.

The Australian Capital Territory recently called for submissions to help develop their guidelines for a proposed VAD bill and it appears this could be debated this year. Interestingly the ACT are looking to have a point of difference and hopefully it will overall be a better model by combining the better points of each state VAD act. I have made a submission to ACT on behalf of our group.The Northern Territory disappointingly has said they will not discuss a new bill until after their next election.

Victoria and Western Australia will be reviewing their VAD laws this year. It is hoped that the new federal government which is more sympathetic to VAD legislation will review the restriction on telehealth access, and move to cover VAD services by medicare benefits.

Overseas. Austria’s VAD law is now in effect. Canada is considering an in depth report to improve their law MAiD as the VAD law is known as in Canada. Ireland & Scotland and UK have not progressed since last year . A number of USA states are considering legislation in addition to the 11 States and territories that have VAD access. Portugal are trying to get their legislation finalised. France is due to present a report by the end of the year following overwhelming support by the French Citizens’ Council.

Sadly Church hierarchy, for example, the Catholic Diocese of Sydney and some conservative “liberal” politicians continue not to accept the social change of VAD and are actively trying to reverse the legislative progress, despite 3 out of 4 Catholics supporting VAD as a compassionate end-of-life Choice. For example, Monica Doumit published a call to arms in the Catholic Weekly. I made a detailed response to the fears, lies and distortions she had in this article but the Catholic Weekly refused to publish this response even though we offered to have it in a paid advert. If a reader would like a copy of this response please contact me via our website. Because of this continued opposition and the need to have the laws passed in the territories, it is hoped that you will continue to be a member of our group.

It is hoped that the recent Advance Care Planning week has made people more aware of the need for a comprehensive Advance Care Directive particularly in respect to stating wishes should dementia become an issue. PLEASE discuss your end of life wishes with your family, and appoint a person to speak on your behalf if you are unable to do so.

Despite experiencing severe ill health my desire to advocate for VAD continues. Best wishes, Ian

Ian Wood, Co-founder of Christians Supporting Choice for Voluntary Assisted Dying group awarded Life Membership of VADSA

On Saturday 23rd July, 2022, during a brief visit to South Australia, I was delighted to be presented with an Honorary Life Membership Award by Frances Coombe, President of Voluntary Assisted Dying South Australia (VADSA).

Ian Wood receiving Life Membership Award from Frances Coombe.

In accepting this Award, I expressed my thanks to Frances Coombe and the VADSA team for this recognition, and my humble gratitude to every person who has helped our group in so many ways, and who have continued to motivate me in my work of advocating for Voluntary Assisted Dying as an additional compassionate end-of-life choice from the aspect of Christian support.

I recalled that I first found out about SAVES, as it was known then, late in 2004 .  My Mother was dying in the last stages of Alzheimer’s in December, and I wrote to our local MP Rob Kerin and to the Premier Mike Rann challenging them to go and visit my Mother in her terrible emaciated condition – saying there must be better and more compassionate ways of dying.  Of course they never came. Sadly, access to VAD is still not available to those with dementia related illnesses in Australia.

My activity really started when late in 2008 Frances Coombe asked me and also Rev Trevor Bensch to consider forming a Christian support group.  Trevor had previously written letters to the SA MPs in support in 2007.  Then the three of us met in the North Adelaide Baptist Church Vestry and Christians Supporting Choice for Voluntary Euthanasia was officially formed 9.2.2009. We had our first article in the Advertiser on 23rd Feb 2009 by Jill Pengilly.

Now, every state has passed a Voluntary Assisted Dying law, amazing progress over the last few years.   It is a recognition that while good palliative care is important, the additional VAD choice is also needed, providing great peace of mind to those using it.

Ian Wood, National Co-ordinator and Spokesperson, Christians Supporting Choice for Voluntary Assisted Dying.  Continue reading

A Christian response to “Drop dead disgrace” – editorial in Catholic Weekly

A Christian response to “Drop dead disgrace” Editorial in Catholic Weekly, 25.5.2022.

What a disgraceful, vitriolic editorial is “Drop dead disgrace” (Catholic Weekly, 25 May) From the title to the picture of a young child holding an anti-Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) placard at the end of the article, it displays a total lack of empathy.

The unnamed author castigates NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and Opposition Leader Chris Minns, both committed Catholics, for not doing more to scupper the VAD bill, describing their failure as “one of the most humiliating examples of meek acceptance of evil ever seen”. An incredible claim that, from any rational viewpoint, is blatantly untrue.

I suppose we should be thankful that the editorial did not openly advocate Perrottet and Minns be excommunicated.

The editorial portrays the NSW VAD law as imposing state-sanctioned killing. We will put aside for a moment the evil of Catholic sanctioned “killing” during the Crusades, in religious wars, the Inquisition, the burning of witches, the ‘troubles’ in Ireland, and the fact of the Catholic Church coverup of paedophile priests that led in turn to the tragic suicides of so many of their innocent victims.

A few facts…

  • VAD is not killing. The Voluntary Assisted Dying Law is legislation to give a terminally ill person, who is already enduring suffering they find intolerable, their right to request assistance to end that suffering quickly and peacefully, at a time of their choosing.
  • There is clear evidence that many patients given approval after their request for a VAD death, actually live longer and have a better end quality of life than those who do not request assistance.   The VAD law provides peace of mind and is palliative in its own right. Many assisted deaths, even of a person wracked with cancer, are described as ‘beautiful’.
  • Advocates for VAD choice respect the need for Palliative Care but recognise that PC can never provide the complete answer and VAD provides the additional option to avoid futile suffering. In Oregon USA, with a law for almost 25 years, 90% of patients using their Assisted Dying choice are already in some form of hospice or palliative care. Note that in Oregon one third of patients approved for assistance do not proceed to take their fatal medication – it is like having an insurance policy you hope you never need.
  • For the Catholic Weekly to compare Voluntary Assisted Dying choice with “the consignment of ethnic groups to the concentration camps”, is quite frankly obscene. As has been pointed out elsewhere, the Holocaust and the agony inflicted on the Jewish community and others has no connection whatever with the Voluntary Assisted Dying end-of-life choice.

Any person who disagrees with the Voluntary Assisted Dying choice is perfectly free not to initiate the rigorous assessment process needed to access the VAD option, and is perfectly free to choose to accept all suffering that comes their way as they are dying.

Many people were heartened and admired the honesty of Dr Robert Olvera, a Harvard-educated physician in California, and what he stated prior to the passing of the End of Life Choice Bill in California,

As a Catholic and a physician, I feel compelled to dispel the myths about these bills perpetrated by the Roman Catholic Church, some disability groups, and the American Medical Association (AMA).

My 25-old daughter Emily Rose desperately pleaded for this option during the final few agonizing months of her life last spring when she suffered in horrific pain from terminal leukemia, despite getting great home hospice and palliative care.

As a Catholic, I pray to God for the passage of the bills authorizing medical aid in dying. These laws would ensure that dying Americans have the option to pass peacefully in their sleep, suffer less, and spare themselves the pain of a lengthy and prolonged death that my daughter had to endure.

Personally, as a Christian, I found it informative that Dr Olvera was praying to God that the VAD Bill be passed, and those opposing VAD were praying that it not pass.  Olvera’s prayer was answered, and the End of Life Choice Bill passed in 2015. May we draw a conclusion from this?

Equally informative is the fact that the California Bill was signed by Gov. Brown, a committed Catholic, who had formerly trained as a Jesuit, and as Governor he actually had the right to veto this Bill.  Instead, in a very rational and compassionate letter, he concluded –

“In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death.  I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn’t deny that right to others.”

Religion, and the Christian Bible have long been used to support opposition to change, just as it was used to resist the abolition of slavery, university education and voting rights for women, use of pain relief for women in childbirth, and in attempting to prove that Earth was the centre of the universe.  History has shown this use of the Bible to be inappropriate.

A significant majority of Christians, including Catholics, believe the time has come to put love and compassion for a fellow human ahead of theological differences of opinion. This is why VAD legislation has been passed in every Australian state, and the VAD choice accepted by Australians generally. We would argue that Perrottet and Minns both acted responsibly – speaking against the Bill as they were entitled to do – but not abusing their position and power to frustrate the democratic process.

To reiterate – the key words are ‘voluntary’ and ‘choice’.

Ian Wood, Spokesperson for Christians Supporting Choice for Voluntary Assisted Dying.


Read more: Rev Michael Dowling and his address to South Australia Parliament in support of VAD as an end of life choice.

Read more. Rev Cardy from NZ expresses his religious support for VAD

Read more: Rev Kilgour of NZ – Sermon in support of an assisted death after his nephew in Canada used MAiD (Medical Assistance in Dying).

Read more: Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu of Capetown and his support for VAD as an end of life choice Continue reading

New South Wales passes Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill – the 6th and final state!

New South Wales passes Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill – the 6th and final state!

May 19, 2022  It took many years of lobbying for this additional compassionate end of life choice, however the NSW Legislative Council, after considering around 100 adverse amendments in a long debate, and rejecting them all, passed the final stage of the VAD Bill 2021 by a substantial majority of 23 votes to 15. The Bill had passed the Lower House 52 votes to 32 on the last sitting day of 2021.   The final version of the VAD Bill was then adopted in the Lower House on 19.5.2022.

A previous NSW Bill was lost by just one vote in 2017, about the same time Victoria passed their VAD Act.

This is an emotional time, as I think back to my late friend and mentor, Rev Trevor Bensch, who co-founded our group with me early in 2009.  Trevor was a hospital chaplain, and some of what he had witnessed led him to support the VAD choice.  We met with The Advertiser reporter Jill Pengelley in the vestry of North Adelaide Baptist Church, and this article was our first piece of publicity!

We have updated our terminology since to reflect that used in all Australian VAD legislation.

Above: Rev Trevor Bensch with our first Patron, Kym Bonython AC, DFC, AFC

I must thank every person who has written and spoken to MPs, those who have shared their stories of loved ones who endured needless suffering at the end of their lives, every Voluntary Assisted Dying Group in each state and territory, Andrew Denton and the team at Go Gentle Australia, Rev Dr Craig de Vos B.V.Sc., Dip.P.S., B.Th.(Hons.), Ph.D., and so many others who have assisted me in our part in reaching this goal. Huge thanks go also to Alex Greenwich MP, all the co-sponsors of the VAD Bill, Adam Searle MLC for his work in the Legislative Council, and every MP who spoke and voted to pass the Bill.

Of course the final step in VAD legislation throughout Australia is to have the Right of the Territories to enact VAD legislation restored.  This was taken away in what is known as the ‘Andrews Bill’ by the Howard Government, after our Northern Territory under the guidance of Marshall Perron became the first jurisdiction in the world to pass a ‘Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995’ to give end of life choice.

We do need to be aware that it will be18 months before VAD actually becomes available in NSW, to allow for setting up all the facets of the Bill re access.

To those who have opposed this legislation – we do remind you that the key word is voluntary and there is no compulsion for you to use the law in any way.  We all support more funding for palliative care, and better access to palliative care in remote and country areas, but also know that the Voluntary Assisted Dying choice is needed in addition to the best possible PC.

History has been made and the wishes of Continue reading

Federal Election 2022 – candidate support for restoring Right of Territories to make their Voluntary Assisted Dying law

While there are many important issues that form part of Policies, or lack of Policies, in this Federal Election, restoring the Right of the Territories to make their own Voluntary Assisted Dying laws is surely one issue to be addressed, especially now that 5 Australian states now have a VAD law.

In view of this, I contacted each of the Federal Lower House candidates for Whitlam, where I am located in NSW, and the lead Senate candidates for every Party listed for NSW, asking if they would support a VAD law for the Territories, overturning of what is known as the ‘Andrews Bill’ at the time of the Howard Government, that took away the Right of the Territories to enact such a law..

Some of the  responses were very thoughtful and supportive, and yet in so many other cases, I received no reply at all.

Here is a table summarizing the responses >

Party Yes/no Comment
Labor Yes for Whitlam Stephen Jones, Labor MP for Whitlam, has personally indicated his support for a VAD law to Ian Wood.

No reply from Senate candidates for Labor

Coalition No response from Liberal or National Party Senate candidates
Greens Yes Have a long standing policy of support for VAD laws.
United Australia Yes Allan Wode. United Australia Party candidate for Whitlam, stated – In regards to states and territories having the ability to pass VAD law, I do support this due to most have already made up their mind to do so. Based on the ability people have when they are at this stage of life, most cannot do anything about it so they live on in agony until the end.

In saying that as with anything there needs to be clear and irrefutable evidence of being terminally ill and enduring suffering they find unbearable. Without clear guidelines on VAD laws it could be misconstrued as a way out for those that cannot help themselves out of depression or other illness to not be a contributor of society.

Support by United Australia Party Senate candidates is unknown.

TNL No reply
Great Australia No reply
Reason Yes Jane Caro, Reason Party lead Senate candidate, strong support for a VAD law. Very understandable as the Reason Party in NSW was formerly the Voluntary Euthanasia Party.
Animal Justice Yes No reply but have supported VAD laws previously
Liberal Democrats No reply from Michael Wheeler, candidate for Whitlam, nor from their Senate candidates
Indigenous-Aboriginal No reply, contact email bounced!
Socialist Alliance No reply
Australian Democrats No reply
Australian Values Yes Stated – Per our Health Policy, we believe that such [VAD} laws should be  standardised at the Federal Layer of Government. We have had enough of the States having different laws for the health and welfare of Australian Citizens.

We are also pro-choice for people to make their own health decisions.

Citizens Yes Kingsley Liu, Citizens Party Senate Candidate stated – Yes. – they support restoring the Right for the Territories to have a VAD law, and a VAD law for NSW
Fusion Yes Andrea Leong Fusion Party Senate candidate stated- Voluntary assisted dying is an important aspect of the principle of  self-ownership. Support for voluntary assisted dying is not a statement  of any kind on the value of life, it is merely respect for the right of  persons to make decisions on these matters for themselves in the light  of their individual circumstances. While safeguards are necessary, all  people should be allowed to live and end their lives with dignity and  peace. Bans on voluntary assisted dying create a legacy of suffering and  a shattering loss of dignity and autonomy.
Medical Options No reply
Federal ICAC No reply
Sustainable Australia Yes Late response.  Sustainable Australia Party candidates do generally support states and territories making their own decisions on this issue and do generally support VAD laws.
One Nation No No reply, but have previously indicated One Nation do not support a VAD law.
Legalise Cannabis No reply
Seniors United No reply
SFFP No reply re Federal Election. However for NSW Parliament we have this curious situation where the Shooters. Fishers and Farmer in HA support VAD and the Upper House MPs oppose!

Regardless of who ends up in Government, I sincerely hope that this Right of the Territories to make their VAD law can be restored.  It is inequitable, discriminatory and inhumane that the ACT and the NT are currently excluded.  We are still hoping that by the date of the Federal Election on May 19, NSW may have become the final state to pass their Voluntary Assisted Dying law.

Thank you for Continue reading

Petition to the NSW Parliament – Please pass the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021 without delay

Five states in Australia now have a Voluntary Assisted Dying law and only New South Wales is lagging behind. We need this compassionate end-of-life choice in addition to palliative care.

A VAD Bill passed the NSW Lower House on the last sitting day of 2021 by a substantial majority of 52 votes to 32. The Bill has now been introduced in the Upper House, to be debated in the coming weeks. Please add your name to the ePetition now, to help make this Voluntary Assisted Dying law a reality in NSW.

PETITION TO NSW PARLIAMENT: Please pass the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill without delay

Bertie and Darcie Daniels lost their Dad Lawrie in 2016. He took his own life in 2016 after years suffering MS. If assisted dying laws had been in place these children would have more time with their beloved Dad. They want to spare other families the same tragedy.

Photo: Go Gentle Australia


If you live in New South Wales please add your name today  to the ePetition using this link > Please pass the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill without delay

If you live outside of NSW but have family or friends in NSW who support the Voluntary Assisted Dying Choice, please share the ePetition link with them today.

Continue reading

A new NSW Legislative Council ePetition ‘Please pass the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021 without delay’ – is open for you to sign.

A post for the huge majority of voters in New South Wales who support Voluntary Assisted Dying choice.

An new ePetition ‘Please pass the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021 without delay’ is now open for signatures on the NSW Parliament website.

You can find the ePetition here >

Please sign now and please share with all your friends and family in NSW who would wish to have this compassionate End-of-Life Choice passed in NSW.

We are the only state still without a VAD Act! The NSW Lower House passed a VAD Bill 52 votes to 32 on the last sitting day 2021, but your help is needed now to get it through the final hurdle – the Legislative Council.  Debate may start in the Legislative Council as early as February 22nd, 2022

Together we can make it happen!

Note that those opposing our Right to choose VAD in NSW have a counter Petition, so your assistance by signing in support is vital.

If you are reading this and live outside of New South Wales, but know people in NSW who support VAD,  please share this post with them now.

Photo: DWD NSW

Thank you,  and please stay Covid free.

Ian Wood

Spokesperson and Co-founder, Christians Supporting Choice for Continue reading

Archbishop Desmond Tutu gave his blessing to the Voluntary Assisted Dying campaign in Australia.

We mourn the death of Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu on 26.12 2021

Archbishop Tutu was a leader in human rights issues as well as a strong supporter of Voluntary Assisted Dying.

One of the world’s most highly regarded religious leaders, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu of South Africa  stated in the  video message above: “People who are terminally ill should have the option of dignified and compassionate assisted dying alongside the wonderful palliative care that already exists”.  “I pray that lawmakers, politicians and religious leaders have the courage to support choices terminally ill citizens make in departing Mother Earth with dignity and love.”

Ian Wood, spokesperson for the Australian group, Christians Supporting Choice for Voluntary Assisted Dying, said in 2017 on an earlier post on this website,  “I am delighted to learn that Archbishop Tutu is willing to give his blessing and support to our Christian campaign for legislation to allow the option of compassionate choice for a person who is terminally or incurably ill with intolerable suffering.”

“The Archbishop recognises the enormous value of palliative care, Continue reading

Sept 22nd 2021 marks 25 years since the first legal assisted death of Bob Dent in NT and 4 years since the tragic dying of Elizabeth Holmes in NSW

On September 22, 2021, we recall the first legal assisted death in Australia, in fact in the world, that of Bob Dent in the Northern Territory on September 22, 1996, 25 years ago.  Bob had suffered from prostate cancer.  We thank Marshall Perron, who, as the Chief Minister of the NT, initiated this legislation.  Sadly, this legislation was overturned by Federal Parliament the following year by the Howard Government by what has been known as the Andrews Bill.  We acknowledge Bob’s wife, Judy, who, as President of the NTVES (NT Voluntary Euthanasia Society), has been lobbying for 25 years to have the Right of the Territory restored to the NT Parliament to enact a VAD Bill.

Tragically, on the same date, September 22, but in 2017, Elizabeth Holmes, who had been in agony for some time from stage 4 breast cancer and other serious health problems, decided the only way to relieve her suffering was to take her own life in Tamworth, New South Wales.  As Elizabeth (Liz) noted just prior to her death, this desperate action could have been avoided if NSW had had a Voluntary Assisted Dying Law.  Such a law would have given Liz a compassionate extra choice in the manner of her dying.

New South Wales is now the only state remaining without a VAD law,  It is time!  COVID-19  has made many of us contemplate our dying and should not be used as a reason for delaying legislation.

This following speech by Sandra Nelson, MLA for Katherine, NT,   talks of the circumstances prior to the death of Elizabeth Holmes.  It is surely yet another reason why a Voluntary Assisted Dying  law is needed  in New South Wales.           The speech has now been shared with all NSW Members of Parliament by Elizabeth Holmes’ daughter.
Posted here, including photos, with permission. 

23 November 2017
Madam Speaker, I rise tonight to commend Premier of Victoria – Daniel Andrews and his government on the historic passing of voluntary euthanasia laws which were passed in Victoria’s Upper House on Wednesday 22nd November.
Madam Speaker , There are few topics as popular, and yet divisive, as euthanasia. Both sides raise compelling arguments, and those arguments are numerous.

End of life care for the terminally ill or those with ir-remediable illnesses is dictated by law, regardless of what is in the best interests of the patient. The current prohibition on assisted suicide is at odds with our otherwise patient-centred health system, it’s almost contradictory. This is the one area of medical care in which the patient’s views cannot be considered and taken into account in determining a course of action.

Many of those who would seek assisted suicide are not physically capable of taking their own life. Even where a person is capable of taking action themselves, it is my opinion that it is barbaric to leave them with the choice between a potentially long and undignified death or violent options to take their own life.

The Northern Territory likes to think of itself as frontier country – it was certainly at the forefront of the international debate over euthanasia. On 25 May 1995 it became the first jurisdiction in the world to pass laws allowing a doctor to end the life of a terminally ill patient at the patient’s request. In doing so, the law permitted both physician-assisted suicide, and active voluntary euthanasia in some circumstances.

And under the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995 (NT) strict conditions applied: it is neither an unqualified ‘licence to kill’ nor an unqualified affirmation of a competent adult patient’s right to assistance in dying.

Madam Speaker, a couple of weeks ago I was visited in my electorate office by Sharon Cramp and her husband Spud.
Sharon and Spud shared with me the story about Sharon’s beautiful mother, Elizabeth Ann Holmes. Liz broke her back when she was 53, she battled breast cancer for 12 years, and had Continue reading

“There is nothing holy about agony” – UK religious people and leaders support assisted dying too!

There is nothing holy about agony: religious people and leaders support assisted dying too

My thanks to the BMJ for publishing the following article.  Ian Wood, Christians Supporting Choice for Voluntary Assisted Dying Group, Australia.

BMJ 2021; 374 doi: (Published 09 September 2021)                                                              Cite this as: BMJ 2021;374:n2094

Jonathan Romain, rabbi and vice chair,  

George Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury

A new alliance of faith leaders has formed to ensure the voice of religious proponents of legalised assisted dying is heard. The former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey and rabbi Jonathan Romain argue that nothing in the scripture directly prohibits assisting a death to end suffering.

We are leaders of a new religious alliance in support of doctor assisted dying (along with Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Reverend Canon Rosie Harper). We have launched this initiative because we are concerned about the impression being conveyed that all faith groups are implacably opposed to changes in the law to help people longing to die on their own terms, without discomfort, indignity, or extreme pain. This is not the case. A massive change is going on in religious attitudes to assisted dying (by which a person is given a prescription for life ending drugs, which they themselves then order and take). Not least the fact that most church goers are in favour of assisted dying; a 2019 poll, for example, found that 84% of the British public, 82% of Christians, and about 80% of religious people overall supported assisted dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults.1

Far from being modern, the problem of having to endure a painful end to your life has long been recognised in religious circles. The Book of Ecclesiasticus, for example, which is accepted in the Roman Catholic canon and is non-canonical but esteemed for Jewish and Protestant people, even expresses the view that “Death is better than a miserable life, and eternal rest than chronic sickness” (30:17).

More than physical suffering

A key motivation for people who want to die is the desire to avoid pain. It is not just physical suffering that appals them, but a range of other situations: the humiliation (in their eyes) of failing powers; the limitation of their ability to enjoy life; their dependency on other people; the lack of control over their bodily functions; the sense that they have nothing to look forward to, except ever worsening decline; and the unwelcome image of being sedated into a state of narcotic stupor in their final days, or with their bodies sprouting a forest of tubes.

Of course, many people regard such a death as a regrettable part of the natural cycle of life, to be mitigated through medical care if possible and to be endured if not. That is entirely their prerogative and must be respected. But should people who want to avoid pain and indignity in death have the right to do so? And should other people have the right to prevent them making that choice about their own life?

Who chooses when?

A biblical passage that—deliberately or accidentally—may be relevant to the challenge today is the famous line in the Hebrew Bible and Old Testament: “There is a time to be born and a time to die” (Ecclesiastes 3.2). Notably, it does not say who chooses that time. In previous eras, theologians and leaders assumed that both were pre-ordained by God and that any human interference was sinful, but now it can be read differently. The time to die could just as well be our decision.

Some mainstream faith leaders might claim that this is contradicted by the verse from Job: “God gives and God takes” (1:21), and we cannot usurp that prerogative. Yet the God barrier has long been pushed aside both at the beginning and end of life, with humans acting in lieu of God, whether by doctors’ efforts to create life using test tubes or to postpone death through heart transplants.

If the religious ideal is to imitate God’s ways, then it is our duty to use our God given abilities as much as possible. We could argue, therefore, that assisted dying is part of the constant act of playing God in the sense that God wants us to help people in distress: to heal where possible, to comfort when needed, and to help Continue reading

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