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Monday, July 21, 2014

Tobit, Sarah, and the UK assisted dying bill

I've been reading about the uk assisted dying bill which is in the House of Lords. It appears that all faith groups are opposed to it (there's a post about it at Thinking Faith) and some who are for it include Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Hawking.

I think there are at least two reasons why the religious arguments against the bill have not been convincing ...

One reason is that the worries religious people bring up .... that the bill will lead to the forced killing of the disabled, or that the bill will allow relatives to coerce ill family members into choosing death ... do not address the actual bill, which only allows terminally ill patients who will die within six months to decide for themselves if they want assisted suicide.

The other reason is less brought up but I think it underlies a lot of the religious arguments against the bill .... the (repugnant to me) belief that people do not have the right to decide for themselves when they will die because that's only God's prerogative ... During Friday's ten-hour debate, the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, said the Bill was not about relieving pain or suffering. "The bill is about asserting a philosophy ... the ancient Stoic philosophy that ending one’s life in circumstances of distress is an assertion of human freedom." - The Tablet

I don't know exactly where I stand on the bill, but it makes me think about the Book of Tobit ...

This book tells the story of a righteous Israelite of the Tribe of Naphtali named Tobit .... he slept in the open and was blinded by bird droppings that fell in his eyes. That put a strain on his marriage, and ultimately, he prayed for death. Meanwhile, in faraway Media, a young woman named Sarah had prayed for death in despair. She had lost seven husbands to the demon of lust, Asmodeus, 'the worst of demons', who abducted and killed every man she married, on their wedding night before the marriage could be consummated. God sent the angel Raphael, disguised as a human, to heal Tobit and to free Sarah from the demon.

Both Tobit and Sarah were both suicidal and prayed for death. God wasn't angry that they did so, and he sent an angel to fix what was wrong in their lives. But what are people who don't get angelic fixes supposed to do?

Some further reading from the blog of the Philosophy Faculty, University of Oxford ...
Economic arguments and assisted dying

- The Wedding Night of Tobias and Sarah by Jan Steen


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