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NewsID : 62643
Date of publication : 11/12/2014 5:07:55 PM
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An Islamic response to the Assisted Dying Bill

Hannah Smith has an undergraduate degree in Geophysics from Imperial College London and the University of Oxford, and a Masters degree in Geology from the University of Michigan

The Assisted Dying Bill was debated for the second time on 15th July 2014. After ten hours of emotive debate, the motion championed by Lord Falconer passed on to the next stage of the parliamentary process with a narrow margin of 65 peers in favor of the bill and 62 against. Hannah Smith argues that assisted dying defies the Islamic approach to life whose essence is dignity and compassion for all.

as a follower of the Islamic tradition, which shares much of its principles and tenets with Christianity, its close relative in monotheism, I shocked to hear about the huge support that

the Assisted Dying Bill has gained from religious people in Britain, including some of the most prominent Church of England's leaders such as former archbishops Lord Carey and Desmond Tutu. Amongst the British public there is overwhelming support for the bill, including religious people whom are 71% for the bill, and of those considered more religious due to monthly attendance at a place of worship, support is even higher at 78%.

Just like former archbishops Lord Carey and Desmond Tutu, I vehemently believe that compassion is a central value and universal norm of humanity that Christians and Muslims take very seriously. I also believe, like Christians, that the human creature was created in the image or likeness of God, and that compassion is one of God's attributes, or names. In fact, compassion is such an important virtue of God and his relationship with his creation that every single chapter of the Qur'an begins with the phrase, 'In the name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful' and thankfully for us humans we have been told that God's Mercy over-rules His Wrath!

However, on matters of death, the Islamic revelation makes it very clear where the line should be drawn. Unlike humans, God is known as al-Muhyi, The Giver of Life and al-Mumit, The Taker of Life, and the Qur'an gives clear guidelines about the taking and preserving of any life, for example saying, 'Do not kill yourselves as God has been to you very merciful' (4:29) and 'Anyone who has saved a life, it is as if he has saved the life of whole mankind' (5:32). The integral values of compassion and sanctity of life pervade the Islamic tradition, with human beings commanded to minimise pain and suffering to animals whether in laborious work or slaughter, and to maintain plant life wherever possible. However all such guidance always comes with the key understanding that only God can take life, hence the most important aspect of lawful (halal) Islamic slaughter is the recognition through blessing that only God has the right to take life and it is God alone that has bestowed this right upon man.

In the Islamic tradition, it is always desirable to ease the suffering of one's fellow human being, but where unpreventable pain is endured by the ill, disabled, dying, or even expectant mother, it is known to bring spiritual growth whether perceived such as through increased patience and strength of character or the expiation of unjust actions one has previously committed. Thus, the dignity of person is actually increased by their suffering. Desmond Tutu has complained of the undignified state of Nelson Mandela at a press conference before he died,

but wasn't the indignity a product of his own perception? Islamically, a person's dignity and value is linked to his ethics when they are fit and mentally mature, such that neither a child nor insane person is held accountable for their actions and a disabled person is only judged according to their capacity. To think that a person's dignity is reduced by a physical condition over which they have no control is abhorrent and extremely shallow. We can't just 'put people down' like animals just because it makes us feel uncomfortable. Whether Mandela courted the press in such a frail condition was either his or his carers' choice and the presses' call as to whether they felt it appropriate or sensitive.

In such serious matters of life and death, we must make sure we have developed well-considered opinions as a duty of care to ourselves and to our fellow citizens. Many arguments have been put forward for and against the Assisted Dying Bill, and as Muslims living in a democratic society we have a duty to get to grips with such debates, form an opinion and lobby our political representative appropriately. If we do not, we are not fulfilling our duty as responsible British citizens. He Assisted DyingBill: The Facts

The proposed bill would give terminally ill patients, whom doctors have predicted less than six months to live, the option of ending their own life. A patient's doctor would be able to prescribe a lethal concoction of pills, which, if the patient is unable to administer themselves, can be administered by a healthcare assistant Under proposed legislation, any person assisting in the process would not be liable for criminal prosecution.

 


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