Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

1 Kislev 5764 - November 26, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











"Mercy Killing" Bills Pass Preliminary Vote
by Eliezer Rauchberger

Two bills that would allow doctors to refrain from administering lifesaving care at a patient's request received approval by a Knesset plenum in a preliminary reading last week.

The bill's proponents, Roman Bronfman (Meretz) and Michael Eitan (Likud), agreed to the government's request to freeze the legislative proceedings for a period of two months to allow the government to draft a bill of its own that will be incorporated into the present two bills and because of the ethical, halachic and legal sensitivity of the issue.

The bill was supported by 41 MKs representing the majority of parties in the Knesset, with 17 no-votes and 4 abstentions. The opponents were from United Torah Jewry, Shas, the Mafdal, Am Echad, Eliezer Cohen (HaIchud HaLeumi), Inbal Gavrieli (Likud) and Michael Gorolovsky (Likud). The abstainers were Yuval Steinitz (Likud), Gila Gamliel (Likud), Michael Melchior (Labor) and Muhammed Bracha (Chadash).

Health Minister Dani Naveh called it "one of the heaviest moral, legal and halachic issues Israeli society has had to contend with," but noted there is a tendency to move from an approach that the doctor is the only figure involved in decision-making to an approach in which the patient's right to make fateful decisions regarding his life are taken more and more into consideration.

He said after the government bill receives Knesset approval in a first reading the appropriate committee will have to grapple with highly complex issues before being brought for second and third readings, such as defining who is "incurable" and who is "terminally ill."

The bills that received preliminary approval last week apply in cases where according to the doctors' prognosis the patient has a life expectancy of less than six months.

During the Knesset discussions MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni lodged harsh criticism against the bill, saying it compromises the sanctity of life, one of the most sacred values in Judaism. "The concept of the preservation of human life under any circumstances is totally imprinted into our way of life. Over sofek pikuach nefesh we even desecrate Yom Kippur. What is happening here is very grave," he said, stressing that the legislation would make it possible to opt not to extend life. "This is simply appalling," he said, hinting that the bill's message could encourage murder because in the age of budget cuts in the health care system, "Who knows what will happen after this preliminary reading to people who are sick or elderly and their lives have to be saved?"

MK Nissim Zeev (Shas) said, "These are bills that seek to permit murder. Simply murder." He also criticized the bill's definition of a dying, terminally ill patient as one expected to live no more than six months. HaKodosh Boruch Hu can do anything, he said, as we have seen in cases of patients who were told their time had come yet miraculously lived much longer than the doctors anticipated.


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