Canadian Jewish News: Concerns raised about physician-assisted death

This article was written by Paul Jungen and published in the The Canadian Jewish News on March 10, 2016.

By Paul Jungen

The Supreme Court has spoken, the legislative wing is deliberating, but some in the Jewish community are uncomfortable with the direction the country is going in adopting a policy on physician-assisted suicide.

Discussion on the topic is now so normalized that an acronym has arisen, PAD, referring to it as physician-assisted dying.

As is the case throughout Canada, the Jewish community is not of one mind when it comes to public policy regarding the issue. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) canvassed a broad spectrum of opinion in the Jewish community and presented a series of suggestions to the minister of justice that would regulate how the policy is implemented.

CIJA found support for the initiative on compassionate grounds, along with concerns that safeguards are needed to avoid the proverbial slippery slope that could lead to assisted deaths beyond the narrow bounds contemplated by its advocates.


But there are voices in the community who are deeply troubled with the idea that physicians – whose mandate is to preserve life and heal the sick – would participate in ending lives. Others worry that once implemented, a policy of assisted dying in a narrow band of circumstances will gradually broaden to include situations not originally contemplated by proponents of the policy, including “informed minors.”

The current situation grew out of a Supreme Court ruling one year ago that struck down, on constitutional grounds, sections of the Criminal Code that made it illegal to help someone commit suicide. The court stated the law would remain in effect for one year before it lapsed. It later extended the deadline to June 2016.

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Germany's Jewish community opposes assisted suicide, while the nation debates the issue

By Alex Schadenberg, International Chair, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The German Bundestag is scheduled to debate four assisted suicide proposals on Friday November 6. The Handelsblatt Global Edition reported, in a mostly pro-euthanasia article, that the four proposals range from complete liberalization to completely protecting people from euthanasia and assisted suicide. According to the article:

It’s encouraging how openly parliament is discussing the subject. Four motions will be on the agenda on November 6, when the Bundestag votes on how assisted suicide will be handled in the future. Proposals range from drastic penalties for anyone who assists in a suicide to complete liberalization of euthanasia, even for those who are not sick.

Germany's Health Minister, for instance, has stated that he supports a ban on the business of assisted suicide, such as occurs at the suicide clinics in Switzerland.

On Monday, Germany's Jewish community stated their opposition to the legalization of assisted suicide. According to the Jewish Times:

The Central Council of Jews in Germany said Monday that there must be no liberalization of assisted suicide in the country.

Central Council President Josef Schuster, a physician and member of the Central Ethics Committee of the German Medical Association, said:

“Seriously ill and elderly people should not be pushed to commit suicide,” 
“Assisted suicide must not become a regular service provided by doctors, an alternative to care for the dying,”

Schuster urged more support for hospice and palliative care.

In December 2014, the German Ethics Council rejected a change in the assisted suicide law. In September 2014, the memorial to the T-4 euthanasia program victims opened in Berlin.

The German Medical Association opposes euthanasia.

Further information:

Jewish leaders dissappointed with assisted suicide decision in Canada

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Jewish Journal reported that Jewish leaders in Canada have reacted with dissappointment  and distress by the Supreme Court of Canada assisted suicide decision. 

The Jewish Journal published the email comments by Frydman-Kohl, of Toronto’s Beth Tzedec Congregation, the largest in Canada who is concerned that the decision:

“will blur the distinctive protection that we give to human life and diminish the desire to care with dedication and devotion for the weakest and most vulnerable of our society.”

Frydman-Kohl called for more support and comfort:

“to those who are dying, so that no one, because of loneliness, vulnerability, loss of decision-making ability or fear of pain and suffering, will feel a need to actively end life.”

The Jewish Journal reported that Vaad Harabanin, who represents the Orthodox Jewish rabbis in Toronto said that he was dissappointed and distressed.

Link to the full article

The Nazi holocaust – let’s not forget the lessons of history and the leading role doctors played

Dr Peter Saunders is a founder of the Care Not Killing Alliance in the UK. This article was published on his blog on January 30, 2015.



By Dr Peter Saunders 

This week has seen two significant anniversaries that have revived memories of the Second World War, and in particular what Britain was spared from.

First was the 50th anniversary of the death of the great wartime British Prime Minister Winston Churchill on 24 January 1965.

Second was the 70th anniversary of the liberation of prisoners from the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp – Holocaust Memorial day. More than one million people, mostly Jews, died at the Nazi camp (pictured) before it was liberated by allied troops on 27th January 1945.

Earlier this week a Jewish figurehead sparked controversy by suggesting that new draft legislation seeking to decriminalize assisted suicide in Scotland is based on similar principles to racist Nazi laws that paved the way for the Holocaust.

Ephraim Borowski, director of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, spoke out against Patrick Harvie’s Assisted Suicide Bill which is currently making its way through Holyrood in an evidence session with MSPs.

Link to the full article

Jewish leader condemns Scottish assisted suicide bill

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

           Ephraim Borowski

           Ephraim Borowski

The Scottish media has reported that Ephraim Borowski, director of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, condemned the Scottish assisted suicide bill.

The media reported Borowski as saying:

“It’s now a well-known cliche that the Holocaust didn’t begin in Auschwitz, it ended in Auschwitz. 
“In terms of principle, it began with the belief that some lives are not worth as much as others and that is precisely what we are faced with here.”

Borowski is commenting on the historical fact that the Holocaust began with the Nazi T4 euthanasia program that killed 70,000 people with disabilities.

Rabbi Testifies Against Assisted Suicide Bill to New Jersey Senate Health Committee

This article was published on December 17 by The Yeshiva World News.

Rabbi Avi Schnall

Rabbi Avi Schnall

The “Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act” passed the State Assembly with 41 votes – the minimum needed – last month, and is now up for a full vote on the Senate floor. In the event that it passes the Senate, the decision would fall to Governor Chris Christie on whether to sign or veto the bill.

Sign the petition urging New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to veto the assisted suicide bill.

On Monday, Rabbi Avi Schnall, New Jersey Director of Agudath Israel of America, expressed Torah Jewry’s vehement opposition to the proposed law to the Senate Health Committee members. Rabbi Schnall told the Committee of Agudath Israel’s long history of representing Torah observant Jews in America – and why this battle is particularly important: “Informed by classical Jewish tradition which teaches that all human life is sacred, and possessed of the firm view that laws that undermine the sanctity of human life send a message that is profoundly dangerous for all of society, Agudath Israel’s interest in the issue of legalizing suicide is especially keen.”

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