Ecumenical News International

Dying needs to be accompanied, not assisted

January 20, 2014

Bad Neuenahr (epd). Manfred Rekowski, president of the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland, has indirectly come out in favor of banning organized assisted dying.  "I cannot see how we in the Protestant church can approve the organizing of assisted dying," the 55-year-old theologian told the Protestant press agency epd. In a motion before the synod of the Rhine church (the second biggest in Germany), clergy were advised not to cooperate with associations that engage in organized or commercial promotion of suicide.

"Accompaniment for the dying takes priority for me, i.e. showing concern for the person and his or her setting," Rekowski underlined. This accompaniment could take place through the good work of hospices and palliative medicine, but also through relatives and friends or through pastoral carers. "For me as a Christian one thing is clear: we cannot decide on life," he stated. He knew, however, "how extremely complicated life can be in individual cases: situations of living and dying are more many-facetted than generalized answers."

The pastoral accompaniment of persons desiring to end their lives is all the more challenging to the church. People should not be left on their own in such borderline situations. "It is important to us that suicide and intended suicide cease to be a taboo topic," said Rekowski.
The EU is currently pressing to ban organized assisted suicide. In principle, only active assisted suicide has been prohibited in Germany so far. However, passive assisted dying, e.g. through refraining to take life-prolonging measures, is not a punishable offense in Germany. Assisting with suicide is not punishable as long as the patients voluntarily take a fatal medicine themselves.

20 January 2014

EKD-Texte 97: When people want to die



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