Jewish Views on Euthanasia
Jewish views on euthanasia almost unanimously condemn it. In the traditional law of the Jews, a goses or a terminally sick person who is also defined as an individual that is expected to die in 72 hours is regarded as a human being in every aspect. Any other person, who kills such an individual, even if the persons is suffering extreme pain and almost dying, is still a murderer.
As such, active euthanasia is forbidden by the rabbinic authorities in Jewish tradition. Euthanasia is considered as a benevolent act of instigating death of a patient that is terminally ill. Since Jewish law forbids or prohibit suicide perhaps, except in specific cases of the religious martyrdom, the traditional authorities forbid even assisted suicide which is similar to aiding a terminally sick person to take their own life.
Nevertheless, the Jewish authorities do not agree over the prohibition that is violated by the person who assists the suffering person. There is a wide range of possibilities including murder and taking advantage of the weakness of the individual or sin propensity by encouraging or making a sinful act possible.
Passive euthanasia in form of withdrawing or withholding therapy that helps in keeping a person alive is a complicated issue. Talmud forbids any act that can hasten death. The medieval law codes of the Jewish upheld the ruling. However, in 13th century a famous passage by the Rabbi Judah the Pious ruling noted that obstacles that prevent death should be removed.
Rabbi Moshe Isserless also codified the ruling in a commentary in authoritative law code of 16th century, the Shulhan Arukh when he noted that, if anything causes hindrance to departure of a soul, it is permitted to remove it because no act is involved in just removing the impediment.
Thus, in Jewish traditions the basic principle that governs the end of life is that there is nothing can probably be done in hastening death. However, all hindrances for death can and maybe should be removed.
Nevertheless, the logistics and practicalities of this act are complicated in terms of the modern technologies in medicine that allow doctors to prolong the life of a person with machines and medications which help in nutrition and respiration. This has raised questions on whether withholding medication for a terminally ill person is hastening death or even removing a hindrance. Other medical practices that have made the Jewish view on euthanasia more complicated include nutrition and hydration.
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