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NEWS: Society for Humanistic Judaism
Supports Physician-Assisted Death

Farmington Hills, MI, May 11, 2013 — In 2007, the Society for Humanistic Judaism, believing that all people have a right to die with dignity, issued a statement affirming an individual's right to "compose a binding document (living will, advance directive) to ensure that ... no one ... interfere with a personal choice regarding decisions about the ending of one's own life."

The SHJ has extended this position by adopting a statement supporting Physician Assisted Death (PAD), also referred to as Physician-Assisted Suicide (PAS) in some countries. Humanistic Jews believe that all people have the fundamental right to determine the course of their own lives. Ethical Concerns Committee co-chair Stephanie Blum explained, "As Humanistic Jews, we feel it is incumbent to support reasonable physician-assisted death statutes to allow terminally-ill patients to die in a dignified and peaceful manner at a time of their choosing."

The statement reads in part:

  • A competent adult diagnosed with a fatal disease that will cause unbearable pain and suffering has the right to die in a dignified and peaceful manner.
  • Government has no substantial, legitimate interest in prolonging the lingering, painful death of a terminally ill person who wants to die.
  • [PAD], in which a physician, at the request of a terminally ill patient, provides the patient with a lethal dose of medication that the patient can take when he/she is ready, promotes dignity and autonomy. . . .
  • Opposition to suicide on religious grounds cannot justify prohibition of PAD, failure to permit it, or penalties on physicians who participate in it. Separation of church and state is a cornerstone of our democracy. . . .

Therefore, be it resolved that the Society for Humanistic Judaism:

  • Affirms that mentally competent adults with irreversible, terminal medical conditions accompanied by intense suffering should have the right to physician assistance in dying.

The Society for Humanistic Judaism is the national umbrella organization for Humanistic congregations in North America. Humanistic Jews value their Jewish identity and the aspects of Jewish culture that offer a genuine expression of their contemporary way of life. There are currently more than 30 congregations in the United States and Canada affiliated with this growing movement. Forty-nine percent of the United States 5.5 million Jews say that their outlook is secular and forty-eight percent do not belong to a synagogue or other Jewish organization according to the American Jewish Identification Survey undertaken by professional statisticians under the auspices of the Center for Jewish Studies at the City University of New York. The Society helps to organize local congregations and havurot, creates and disseminates celebrational and educational materials, provides national programs, including programs for teens and young adults, and serves the needs of individual members who do not live near an existing Humanistic congregation.

For more information, contact the Society for Humanistic Judaism.

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