The Massachusetts Joint Committee on Public Health will hold a hearing on the Massachusetts End Of Life Options Act on June 25. I urge my friends in the Jewish community to support this compassionate legislation and tell our state lawmakers to pass it.
I believe that life must be infused with meaning and purpose. When it is no longer possible for us to attain either, because of suffering induced by terminal illness, a compassionate alternative must be available to us. This option is at the core of the Massachusetts End Of Life Options Act. This bill would allow mentally capable, terminally ill adults with six months or less to live to have the option to request prescription medication that they can decide to take if their suffering becomes unbearable, so they can die peacefully in their sleep.
We frequently toast with the Hebrew phrase L’chaim: “To life!” My faith tradition holds precious the gift of life which we are granted and rejects the notion that suffering is inherently redemptive.
As a former hospice chaplain and a 29-year congregational rabbi serving families contending with end-of-life issues, I have witnessed deaths both peaceful and agonizing. I have seen members of my community pass from life serenely, and I have watched them endure immense suffering.
As a person of faith who chose a profession in which I am expected to offer guidance to those facing the ultimate existential questions, I believe firmly that terminally ill, mentally capable adults should have the option to die peacefully if their suffering renders living intolerable.
I do not presume to speak for all Jews. But I feel strongly that anyone’s deeply-held religious convictions should not preclude the exercise of the most fundamental of personal decisions by others.
I do offer experience gained ministering to the dying and to their loved ones. I’m urging legislators to grant the precious gift of autonomy to those for whom the personal decision to end unendurable suffering at the end of their life would be the greatest of blessings.
Rabbi Elias Lieberman Falmouth Jewish Congregation, East Falmouth