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2016 Resolution: Opposing Physician Assisted Death

Whereas some individuals facing terminal illness with significantly diminished quality of life express a desire to end their suffering and the suffering of their loved ones; and,

Whereas Judaism asserts that every human life, including one of suffering or of diminished capacity, is precious; and,

Whereas according to Jewish tradition, and as expressed explicitly in the Bible, God gives life, and it is therefore God alone who has exclusive purview to take away that life; and,

Whereas the Rabbinical Council of America and its members have long advocated that Jews use its Health Care Proxy to ensure end-of-life care in accordance with the above values as well as the nuances of Jewish law appropriate to their circumstances; and,

Whereas certain jurisdictions (e.g., Belgium, Canada, The Netherlands, Switzerland, and the American states of Oregon, California, and Washington) have legalized suicide and allowed for physicians to assist patients in terminating their lives; and,

Whereas the legalization of Physician Assisted Death (PAD) will potentially prey on the most vulnerable in our society, those whose physical health is waning and who may have fallen into depression or other mental illness; and

Whereas those expressing a desire to end their lives sometimes change their minds once their physical or mental anguish is alleviated through treatment; and,

Whereas a disproportionate amount of medical spending takes place in the last years of life, creating structural and financial incentives to promote premature death; and,

Whereas these incentives will, ineluctably in our view, subtly or explicitly create pressure, from health care providers and others, upon some patients to assent to terminating their lives; and,

Whereas legalizing PAD will, inevitably in our view, place health care professionals of various faiths and consciences in positions of conflict between the mandates of their beliefs and civil law and,

Whereas should PAD become the standard of care for the treatment of certain illnesses, it will become difficult for members of many faith communities to enter health care professions, especially in geriatrics, oncology, emergency medicine, palliative care, and similar specialties; and,

Whereas professional schools, professional organizations, and hospitals may eventually establish qualifications that would require applicants to accept and perform PAD or face rejection

Therefore, the Rabbinical Council of America

Commits itself and its members to offer care and support for those who struggle with suicidal thoughts and their loved ones and expresses sympathy for individuals and families affected by suicide.

Commits itself to advocate for the value of every person’s life within our society.

Avers that by diminishing the value of a terminally ill patient’s life, society demeans the Image of God in which all people are created, thereby negating its correspondingly infinite spiritual value.

Affirms that, according to Jewish law and tradition, taking one’s own life is an act of murder.

Similarly. notes that one who aids and abets suicide is an accessory to murder.

Vehemently protests legalizing any pathway for killing the ill, since society thereby supports and normalizes the act of murder.

Opposes PAD in every form, noting that any participation in PAD is forbidden by Jewish law.

Similarly oppose advanced PAD directives since one cannot predict one’s future emotions and thoughts and also because, even in the face of terminal illness, suicide is a permanent solution to what may, in the fullness of time, turn out to be a temporary problem.

Rejects as immoral pressuring any person to assent to terminating his or her life.

Fears that, over time, PAD’s normalization will create such pressure on patients, encouraging them to end their lives so that, among other reasons, they do not burden their loved ones and overburden that health-care systems that care for them.

Calls upon legislators, medical care professionals, schools, organizations, and facilities to reject or limit PAD laws where they are proposed, as well as to seek their limitation and repeal where they are already law.


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