Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Jewish Perspective on Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide and Palliative Care.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

A column written by Don Marmur, Rabbi emeritus at Toronto’s Holy Blossom Temple and published in the Toronto Star on July 7, 2014 under the title: Palliative Care preferable to assisted suicide, offers a Jewish perspective on the issues of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Marmur's comments are based on the Quebec euthanasia bill 52, which he refers to as unique in North America with implications that effect us all.

Marmur begins by explaining his faith tradition by stating:
My faith teaches that life is God’s gift and, therefore, sacred. For humans, to take it away in murder or suicide is criminal and sinful. Despite its claim to compassion, assisted suicide may be of that ilk.
Marmur then recognizes that palliative care may quicken death but that does not contravene ethics. He wrote:
But my faith also teaches that as God’s creatures we’re obligated to lighten the burden of others and do our utmost to relieve them of suffering. Palliative care for the terminally ill is of that ilk.
Marmur then quotes Rabbi Benny Lau, one of Israel’s outstanding religious leaders, who stated:
“Yes to compassion, no to murder.” ... if doctors cannot cure, they should allow terminally ill patients to die, though without actively helping them to do so.
Another prominent Israeli rabbi, David Stav, is then referred to by Marmur"
 “We fear that the family members or medical staff will exert concealed or open pressure on terminally ill patients, who will choose a ‘respectable’ death in order to make things easier for those staying alive.” 
 “Giving physicians the right to prescribe a life-ending prescription changes the image of doctors in their own eyes and in the eyes of society, and could have a far-reaching impact on the role of doctors and the trust in them.”
Marmur then quotes Mordechai Halperin of Jerusalem, a doctor and a rabbi to have stated:
permitting assisted suicide “will eventually lead to ending the lives of people who ‘are not suitable for us.’” In their endeavour to save taxpayers’ money, states may adopt forms of “mercy killing” in the guise of compassion and compliance with the wishes of citizens. The scandal of the Nazi euthanasia program must never be far from our minds.
Marmur concludes his article by reminding us of the nature of the human person. He states:
Human beings are prone to changing their minds. What if someone who earlier gave instructions to get help in suicide now wants to stay alive until life’s natural end but can no longer communicate it? 
It would be less than prudent to ignore these considerations in the light of Bill 52. The legislation may be unique in North America, but its implications are far-reaching and affect us all. The possible hypocrisy of its opponents seems greatly preferable to the ostensible high-minded consistency of its advocates.
Links to a similar article: 
Israel debates assisted suicide.

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