End of life: what religions say about suicide (assisted or not)

“There is only one really serious philosophical problem: it is suicide. To judge that life is or is not worth living is to answer the fundamental question of philosophy. claimed Albert Camus in The Myth of Sisyphus. For the vast majority of the world’s religions, the answer is straightforward: yes, life is worth living, come what may. God gave it to us (or the gods, or Nature…) and it is not up to us to give it back.

Such a vision makes it possible, in part, to understand the opposition of the representatives of the main religions to any change in the law on the end of life in France. Neither “active euthanasia” (when someone’s life is “softly” ended in order to end their suffering), nor “assisted suicide” (the act of providing an environment and the means necessary for a person for her to commit suicide) cannot be tolerated, life being sacred.

“During the Covid crisis, our society made heavy sacrifices to “save life”. (…) How can we understand that, only a few months later, the impression is given that society would see no other way out of the test of fragility or the end of life than active assistance in dying, than assisted suicide? ? », question the bishops of France in a tribune at the World.

“Euthanasia and assisted suicide are a profanation of the act of care”, also denounce in our columns Muslims Sadek Beloucif, professor of anaesthesia-resuscitation, and Chems-Eddine Hafiz, rector of the great mosque of Paris. “I cannot understand this schizophrenia of a society which, on the one hand, spends millions on campaigns against suicide and, on the other, encourages a disguised form of it”lamented at the end of November the chief rabbi of France, Haïm Korsia, in The Sunday newspaper.

During a debate organized on December 5 at Sciences Po Paris, the president of the Protestant Federation of France, Christian Krieger, was even worried about seeing the development in France of a “culture of dying”. The words are strong. And if there are many ethical, medical or anthropological considerations behind such positions, which can be shared by many citizens “without religion”, theology is not foreign to them.

What monotheistic religions say

“The ‘thou shalt not kill’ of the Old Testament (Exodus XX, 13) had such consequences and so many that it is still difficult today to take the measure. But when it comes to euthanasia, things are simple : any attack on human life is condemned and worthy of the pangs of eternal flames”, summarizes the historian Françoise Biotti-Mache (“Euthanasia: a few words of vocabulary and history”, review of Death studies, flight. 150, noh 2, 2016, p. 17-33).

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End of life: what religions say about suicide (assisted or not)