The Protestant Churches in Europe Speak on Assisted Death

The Community of Protestant Churches in Europe, CPCE, publishes “A time to live and a time to die”, an aid to orientation on questions at the end of life, and the parallel internet page

“A time to live and a time to die” offers an aid to orientation on medically assisted death and aid to suicide. The study is the fruit of an intensive process of consultation between the 105 CPCE churches in 30 countries on the basis of a text by the CPCE special group on ethics. With the document now presented the protestant churches in Europe contribute their position to the discussions about a worthy approach to the end of life.

“It is a strength of European Protestantism that it takes differences seriously and lets them come to expression”, said CPCE President Thomas Wipf about the brochure appearing today in which the protestant churches throughout Europe speak together on the theme for the first time. “This document takes up urgent questions and encourages the churches to address the theme more intensively in their own context.”

The 104 page brochure discusses fundamental questions of dying in the social, clinical and juridical context. It asks from theological and ethical perspective: What is human life? Where does our moral responsibility lie? How sensitive are we to the wishes of the patient? Here the aid to orientation takes up such central questions of medical ethics as the termination of life-extending measures, palliative care, assisted dying and suicide assistance.

The CPCE churches support the protection of the human rights of the dying and terminally ill. These include the right to life up to the end and the right to refuse treatment. At the same time the churches oppose setting the principle of autonomy against solidarity, empathy and care for the sick and dying.

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The CPCE churches oppose a theological ethical justification for assisted dying and assistance for suicide. At the same time they realize the change in social attitudes to particular forms of assisted death and assisted suicide. The study emphasizes the necessity to improve the accompanying social, medical and caring conditions for a worthy life and dying. These include the extension and development of hospices and the advancement of palliative care in theory and practice.

Church action is oriented towards care for human beings. The aid to orientation calls us to seek the protection of life and to work for worthy conditions of living and dying in clinics and hospices.

As a further aid to orientation CPCE is also publishing today the internet site There, alongside the publication itself, texts from various lands and contexts introduce the theme. Website visitors are invited to comment and to join actively in the discussion.

Note: All information, the publication and further texts are immediately accessible on The aid to orientation is appearing first in English; the German and French versions will follow in autumn 2011.

Vienna, 16th May 2011

At present 105 Protestant churches in Europe (including five South-American churches originating from Europe ) belong to the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe (CPCE). Lutheran, Reformed, United and Methodist along with pre-Reformation churches such as Hussites and Czech Brethren grant each other pulpit and table fellowship on the basis of the Leuenberg Agreement of 1973. The Secretariat is housed in the Severin-Schreiber-Gasse 3, A-1180 Vienna,, tel. +43.1.4791523.900, fax .110 The CPCE press officer is Dipl.theol. Thomas Flügge (Bern), tel. +41.31.3702502,

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