The Torah's view of continuing life support
Rabbi Elyashiv weighs in on Euthanasia
January 10, 2002
Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, shlit"a, regarded as one of the leading rabbinical authorities in the world, has weighed in on the recent controversy surrounding the ending of life support for the terminally ill. According to the comments of Rabbi Elyashiv, which were published in yesterday’s Yated Ne’eman newspaper, it is forbidden to remove life support from a terminally ill patient. The letter comes in response to a decision by a Tel Aviv court to allow a petition submitted in the name of a terminally ill patient to be removed from life support. The religious press has given particular attention to the response of the Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein, which voiced no objection to the petition, but rather only asked to receive medical testimony supporting the petition.
Rabbi Elyashiv referred to a previous halachic decision by several leading rabbis, including himself, which stated that "it is forbidden to accelerate the death of a terminally ill patient, G-d forbid, for such an act is like lending one’s hand to murder." More specifically, the halachic decision referred to euthanasia for reasons of "mercy" by stating that one may not accelerate the death of a terminally ill patient, "in order to ease his suffering, by halting the supply of food or medicine and certainly not by an active intervention."
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