Advances in modern medicine have revolutionized the ability to treat patients and prolong life, but have simultaneously led to challenging dilemmas in cases of patients dependent on life support equipment. Some live on in a state of terminal illness, comatose or even in a “Persistent Vegetative State” – sometimes for years.
Consequently, whereas in the past people would die with limited medical intervention, modern technology has changed the face of medical care and the process of dying. How to manage end of life care is a growing concern across the globe – one that crosses legal, moral, and religious lines. The use of living wills stipulating euthanasia (when the life-shortening procedure or withholding of treatment is done by another party such as a physician) and physician-assisted suicide (when the patient takes his life, guided by the physician) have become increasingly sought-after options in the end of life decision-making process.
Although prohibited in most countries worldwide, as of 2013, euthanasia is legal in Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg and physician-assisted suicide is legal in Belgium, Germany, Holland, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and the US states of Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. It is therefore critical to understand the Jewish ethical and legal perspectives to navigate end of life care situations. This shiur will explore Jewish views on the value of life, the treatment of terminally ill patients, euthanasia and patient autonomy.