Major religions sing from the same hymn sheet on assisted dying

Relying primarily on the word of a Christian union representative, the traditionally Catholic newspaper La Croix reports on the unity of the major Abrahamic religions in France with regard to the ethics of end of life issues, and how this show of thoughtful solidarity has apparently impressed the French government's social advisory body.

Article source: "Fin de vie, les représentants des cultes reçus au CESE", Gauthier Vaillant, La Croix, 16/01/2018.

La Croix has learnt that five representatives of the major religions appeared before the French government’s advisory council on the economy, society and the environment (CESE) on Thursday 11 January. They were taking part in a group interview as part of the work of the advisory council’s temporary “End of Life” committee. The CESE have been dealing with this question ever since the middle of November, when they received a petition signed by 228,000 French citizens asking for “legislation on actively assisted suicide”.

Representing the Catholic Church at the meeting was Pierre d’Omellas, Archbishop of Rennes and president of the working group on bioethics at the French Conference of Catholic Bishops. The representative of the Protestant Federation of France was Christian Krieger, president of the Reformed Church of Alsace and Lorraine. Haïm Korsia, the Chief Rabbi of France, was there to represent the Jewish religion, and Ahmet Ogras, the president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), was accompanied by Imam Mahammed Azizi, the regional mulsim hospital chaplain for Paris and the Ile-de-France region.

Not a Hair's Breadth Between Them

The delegates were all of the same view on this delicate matter. “For all the religious representatives, death in this world is only the beginning of a life in another world. It is only a transition,” said Ahmet Ogras, “it is important to be committed to investing time and material so as to care for individuals at the end of their lives. The financial cost should not hold us back.” He was satisfied by the way this interview turned out because he felt that the members of the committee, “have seen that we all have the same conception of life; we just use different words.

As Joseph Thounevel, vice-president of the Christian trade union, CFTC, and a member of the committee, put it: “most of them agree that we must respect life right up until the end, and all of them consider the current levels of palliative care to be insufficient.” He added that “they also agree on the critical need to review the existing laws before making new ones.” Thounavel was particularly impressed by the presentation made by Archbishop d’Omella and applauded his “deep understanding of the matter.” He added that there was barely “a hair’s breadth” between the views of the archbishop and those of the Chief Rabbi.

I said that death has been dehumanized in our society,” said Christian Krieger. “No religion promotes suffering, but each one promotes finitude, vulnerability as a place to face one’s own humanity,” added the minister, who said he thought that today’s society “refuses to accept this finitude.

Protestants Open to Debate

The only slight point of divergence, brought up by the Protestant representative, concerned the concept of assisted suicide. “Suicide is not compatible with Christian anthropology and it has a devastating effect on friends and family members,” insisted Christian Krieger, “but Protestants are ready to discuss this amongst ourselves,” because there are many different views. “Some people fully accept the formal interdiction, ‘Thou shalt not kill’, while others think of suicide as the ultimate expression of the free will which characterizes the human condition.”

Since the CESE began its consultation, many participants in the debate about the end of life have been interviewed. Doctor Anne de La Tour, president of the French organisation for support and palliative care, was one of them, as were Dr Jean-Marie Faroudja, president of the ethics section of the French national medical board, and Jean-Luc Romero, president of the association for the right to die with dignity (ADMD). Over the next few days, a representative of the Freemasons is also scheduled to be interviewed.

The remarks of the religious representatives seem to have aroused a good deal of interest. “The members of the committee have clearly been very impressed by the quality of the remarks and the unity of the different religions,” declared Joseph Thouvenel. “I have seen a great capacity to listen,” added Christian Krieger. “We were thanked for bringing spirituality and reflection to a debate that is usually very technical”.


Translated by Euzhan Genly and Audrey Cauchy

Editing by Sam Trainor

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