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What is Reform Judaism's position on allowing a terminally ill person who is mentally competent to request of his/her doctor medication to allow himself/herself to end his/her own life?

What is Reform Judaism's position on allowing a terminally ill person who is mentally competent to request of his/her doctor medication to allow himself/herself to end his/her own life?
Answer By: 
Rabbi Mark Washofsky

Jewish tradition holds that since life is a gift from God, it is to be cherished until the last moments of life. We are instructed not to take any actions that may accelerate death. All of us wish to avoid pain and suffering, and none of us wishes to see a loved one in agony. But suffering does not, in and of itself, justify the taking of a human life.

Jewish tradition does not demand that we struggle against illness with all our might until the bitter end. Our duty is to practice medicine, to heal, to save life; and once it becomes clear that our technologies no longer serve what we would define as a reasonably therapeutic purpose, we are permitted to withdraw those treatments, even if in doing so we allow the patient to die sooner than he or she otherwise would have died. Indeed, since tradition suggests that it is forbidden to delay unnecessarily the inevitable and imminent death of a terminal patient, it is arguably our obligation to discontinue these therapies.

Our obligation to heal the sick and to care for them does not include assisting a patient to end his or her life. Judaism has always held that assisted suicide is incompatible with our teachings. Such practices are rife with the potential for tragic abuse, and are incompatible with Jewish teaching, as we understand it.