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Op-Ed

The Rabbinical Alliance of America Supports Sanctity of Life and Opposes Doctor-Prescribed Suicide

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The Rabbinical Alliance of America – Igud Harabbonim, representing nearly one thousand Rabbis serving throughout the United States – declares its unequivocal opposition to physician assisted suicide. The New York State Assembly has once again introduced the “Medical Aid in Dying Act”, a bill that would legalize physician assisted suicide. If enacted, this bill would put into practice a profound disrespect for the sanctity of human life. Rabbi Aaron E. Glatt, MD, states that, “Judaism absolutely forbids the active taking of life, regardless of the ‘quality of that life’ as perceived by ever changing social and or secular mores.”

Jewish medical ethics are based on the eternal divine principles of compassion and mercy, and do indeed sanction forsaking of additional life-prolonging treatment and passively permitting a patient to pass away under very specific circumstances. However, no one may ever actively kill the defenseless ill, which is contrary to both medical and religious ethics. Even passive action is usually only considered towards the end of life for a suffering patient, and only after consultation with a knowledgeable rabbinical authority.

Judaism requires that every effort must always be made to relieve pain and suffering through aggressive therapeutic means. “Comfort care”, defined de facto as the discontinuation or not starting further active treatment of medical issues, is usually only a consideration when there is no medical expectation of palliation or cure, and especially if the patient is suffering with a terminal condition. Likewise, DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) orders are permissible under the appropriate medical and Halachic (Jewish law) conditions, but only after rabbinical discussion and approval. But under no circumstance is active euthanasia ever permitted, no matter how noble the intentions of the involved parties.

Judaism unequivocally states that physician assisted suicide, so called “mercy killing”, is essentially an act of murder and is absolutely forbidden by all Halachic (Jewish law) authorities bar none. The doctor’s job is to preserve life, not to take it. This is true even if a suffering, mentally competent patient requests such life termination and even if there is a willing physician partner. Murder is murder. Rabbi Aaron E. Glatt, MD, added, “We are especially concerned that unwilling elderly and lower socioeconomic patients will be pressured into accepting termination of their lives.”

Additionally, Rabbi Yehoshua S. Hecht, Presidium Chairman, affirms that the RAA/Igud opposes Doctor-Prescribed Suicide. Physician Assisted Suicide constitutes homicide, a violation of the Seven Universal Laws of Noah, an ethical code that applies to all of humanity without exception. Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, Executive Vice-President of RAA/Igud, strongly declares that the campaign to defeat the New York Doctor-Prescribed Suicide Bill is important for all who value the sanctity of life. The RAA/Igud, founded in 1942, is a professional rabbinical organization representing over 950 Rabbis in North America.

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