In what appears to be the next wave of anti-Torah progressiveness sweeping the nation arethe so-called “death with dignity” laws. This will become the greatest domestic danger to the Jewish community and the Western world at large. Right now, approximately 20 different states are trying to pass “assisted suicide” laws around the country, including New York and New Jersey the two states that have by the far the most Orthodox Jews. In NY, there are three different bills trying to accomplish this deed. In New Jersey last year, a bill already passed the assembly by only one vote and then progressed to pass the senate committee by only one vote. Since all bills that are not passed by January 12 will expire, the progressives are trying to make sure to pass this bill and very well might bring it up for a vote as early as Thursday, December 17.
While it’s clear that stopping these laws from being passed is clearly pikuach nefesh (the obligation of saving a life), even stalling them from passing may save one person. It’s also clear that this chiyuv to try and stop these laws would be more important than almost all other political concerns because we know pikuach nefesh trumps most other Torah laws. To not fight these laws would also fall under the prohibition of lo sa’amod al dam re’acha; for which the Rambam writes that violating the prohibition of lo sa’amod al dam re’acha “is as if one destroyed the entire world.” (Hilchos Rotze’ach 1:15-16)
While these laws are pure evil and assur (see Rambam Hilchos Rotze’ach 2:2-5) no matter how it’s implemented, they are even more evil in practice and can only be compared to Amalek. As we have already seen with other parts of the progressive movement’s “morality law,” laws consistently evolve and are implemented in ways beyond what the letter of the law actually allows.
These laws are supposedly written with safeguards, but we see clearly that these safeguards are not worth the paper they are written on. In NJ, assisted suicide bill patients are not required in most situations to get a psychological examination before getting approval for assisted suicide. As we saw in Washington State in 2012 (which has similar language to the NJ bill), only 3 percent of patients who “requested” an assisted suicide got a psychological examination. The proposed bill also doesn’t ban Medicaid from paying for this barbaric act. Furthermore, this bill does not allow a pharmacist to be exempted from filling the poison prescription, forcing a pharmacist to become an abettor to this murderous act (the law in NJ mandates pharmacists fill all prescriptions regardless of religious objections). The assisted bill does not have an investigation process to confirm that the patients actually want to commit suicide; all that is necessary to confirm that fact is the signatures of witnesses that the patient wants and is capable of making that decision. There is no confirmation process to check for forgeries or lies, they are going solely on the basis of those signatures. Finally, in perhaps the most grievous and sinister plot of all, the bill allows for someone who works for the patient’s medical insurance company to act as both witnesses.
Just a quick glance at other countries that are further along down this road than we are, and we see that assisted suicide eventually leads to outright euthanasia, and the worst forms of it, at that. We see in every single location that allows it that every year more people are killed than the previous year. It was reported years ago, that one in four doctors in the Netherlands admitted to killing a patient without the patient’s explicit permission, and in Belgium, 32 percent of patients who were killed did not give explicit permission. We further see how the laws keep expanding—recently Belgium passed child euthanasia, and a canton in Switzerland voted to force all nursing homes to have a special room for people to be killed.
Beyond just the actual murder, these evil laws will have major social implications, as we have already seen in Oregon where two different people were denied chemotherapy by Medicaid, but Medicaid “kindly” agreed to pay for the poison with which to kill them. As we know, medical insurance companies only care about the bottom line, and keeping people alive is not their top concern. So the fact that “suicide” is cheaper and, by liberal standards, the “moral” and “humane” approach, should give us all pause for contemplation. Once doctors become agents of death, they might not try as hard to save patients in the future. Society may eventually even decide that to not kill a suffering person is “inhumane.” As Jews who either witnessed the Holocaust or knew people who did, we must remember that before the Nazis implemented the “final solution” they first implemented “Action T4” which consisted of murdering those whose lives were deemed as not being worth anything. We know full well what this cheapening of human life ultimately ended with.
Unfortunately, many of these bills are supported by legislators representing Orthodox areas. As stated previously, the bill in the NJ assembly passed by only one vote; however, many assemblymen who voted for the bill (some of these districts had both assemblymen vote for the bill) represent Orthodox areas (Highland Park/Edison, Elizabeth, Passaic, Englewood/Teaneck/Tenafly) including the bill’s chief sponsor Timothy Eustace (Bergenfield/Fair Lawn/Paramus). If we could have gotten even one person to merely abstain on this bill, we would have killed the bill. In the NJ committee, a key deciding vote was Robert Gordon who voted to advance the bill despite his claim of having doubts. The only reason he can afford to do so is because he feels confident that he will still get our votes. It must be made clear to him that we are a vengeful people (Bamidbar 31:1). Politicians in general are very predictable people. They care primarily about reelection, and there are very few politicians who would vote for this bill if they would risk losing the next election because of it. Understanding that fact, we have to make sure they follow our views on this issue, or they will most surely follow our opposition. If we don’t do that they will play us for fools. We need to make clear to every single legislator who votes for this bill that under no circumstances will we ever vote for them, and we will go after them in primaries and general elections for the rest of their career; anything less is to be over on the lav of lo sa’amod al dam re’acha.
Of the senators in North Jersey with large Jewish populations, only Peter Barnes (Edison) has made his opposition clear, speaking at a press conference Monday, Dec 7. Please let Senator Peter Barnes, (732) 548-1406, know that we appreciate his opposition to assisted suicide.
Avraham Sharaby has an MA in Talmudic Law from BMG. He is a real estate broker in NY and is a finance director in north NJ. He lives in Lakewood, NJ, with his wife and two daughters.
By Avraham Sharaby